James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, were taken into custody early on Saturday after a tip-off led to the search of a commercial building on Detroit’s east side. The couple were detained without incident, yet appeared to be “very distressed” as they were brought out of the building, Police Chief James White said.
“They were aided, and we’re looking into that portion of the investigation. That part is very active now,” White told reporters, adding that additional charges were likely to be filed.
In what is a rare occurrence in the case of a school shooter, the parents were each charged on Friday with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Michigan law, unlike that of some other states, does not oblige gun owners to keep their armaments locked away from children, however.
The prosecution is arguing that the parents’ actions nonetheless went “far beyond negligence,” because, it alleges, they failed to secure the gun, which belonged to the father, and did nothing after the school warned them their son was searching online for information about ammunition in the days before the shooting.
The couple failed to show up for a court arraignment, prompting a manhunt only a matter of hours after the charges were announced. The law firm representing the couple, Smith Lehman, claimed the two had not been evading the law, but had instead been the victims of miscommunication.
“The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement, despite recent comments in media reports,” the firm said, criticizing Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald for announcing the charges in a press conference rather than briefing the Crumbleys’ lawyers direct.
The attorneys’ claims have been corroborated by local police, who said they had also first learnt of the charges from the press.
“We didn’t even know they had been charged with anything until we were informed this morning by the media,” Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe told the Detroit News on Friday.
McDonald has disputed those claims, telling CNN she was told the police were aware of the Crumbleys’ whereabouts and defending her decision to announce the charges publicly. “The prosecutor’s office doesn’t arrest people,” she stated, implying the police were to blame for the manhunt having needed to be conducted.
Ethan Crumbley was arraigned on Wednesday, and faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder and terrorism. The shooting took place on Tuesday, and left four students dead, and a further six students and a teacher injured.
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