Prosecutors in the US state of Michigan have filed charges against the parents of a teenager who is accused of shooting dead four fellow students at a school earlier this week.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Charges against parents following school shootings in the United States are extremely rare. Prosecutors maintained that the facts in this case were “egregious”.
Seven students and a teacher were shot in the incident in Michigan on Tuesday. Three of the students died on Tuesday, and the fourth died on Wednesday in hospital.
Prosecutors maintained that James Crumbley had purchased the handgun used four days prior to the shooting in the school.
At a dramatic press conference on Friday, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley referred to the gun as their son’s “new Christmas present” in a social media post.
The prosecutor said an Oxford High School teacher the day before the shooting reported to school officials that she had seen Ethan Crumbley using his phone to search for ammunition.
She said school officials left a voicemail and email for Jennifer Crumbley, who did not respond. However, she said Ms Crumbley sent a text message to her son that said “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
On the morning of the shooting, the prosecutor said, another teacher found a drawing on Ethan Crumbley’s desk depicting a handgun, bullet and shooting victim, with the words “the thoughts won’t stop” and “help me”.
The note also had the phrases “my life is useless” and “the world is dead” written on it.
The parents were subsequently called to a meeting with school authorities.
“Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask if their son had his gun with him or where his gun was located, and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun, which he had with him,” Ms McDonald said.
The prosecutor said the parents “resisted the idea” of Ethan leaving school at that time.
The prosecution maintained that afterwards Ethan Crumbley returned to class, and that just before 1pm he entered a bathroom wearing a backpack, then came out with the pistol in his hand and began shooting.
“When the news of the active shooter at Oxford High School had been made public, Jennifer Crumbley texted to her son at 1.22 pm, ‘Ethan, don’t do it’,” Ms McDonald said. Fifteen minutes later, James Crumbley called 911 to report that the gun was missing and that it may be his son who committed the school shooting.
“I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents who have children who are struggling and at risk for whatever reason,” Ms McDonald said. “But the facts of this are so egregious.”
She said gun ownership was a right but with that right came great responsibility.