Michigan authorities are moving forward with a broad investigation into Tuesday’s school shooting, including a probe into the possibility of an accomplice to the suspect’s parents and of the actions taken after school officials were warned about the teen’s allegedly disturbing behavior.
Appearing on video Saturday morning, parents James and Jennifer Crumbley pleaded not guilty to four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, charges that allege they indirectly contributed to the deaths of four teenagers Tuesday at Oxford High School, about 40 miles north of Detroit.
In detailing the charges against the parents, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald has alleged culpability, saying the parents bought the suspect the gun used in the shooting and failed to act when school staffers warned them about disturbing behavior.
“These two individuals could have stopped it,” McDonald said during the couple’s arraignment Saturday morning.
Shannon Smith, one of two attorneys representing the Crumbleys, said during the court session, “Our clients are going to fight these charges. Our clients are just as devastated as everybody else.”
The defense also argued in court Saturday morning that the suspect was not given access to a gun.
“That gun was actually locked,” the Crumbleys’ co-counsel, Mariell Lehman, said in court. “So when the prosecution is stating that this child had free access to a gun, that is just absolutely not true.”
At a news conference Saturday, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the Crumbleys appeared to be reluctant to surrender despite assurances by their legal team that they would.
With warrants in hand, Bouchard said law enforcement began to look for the Crumbleys. Officials were informed the couple was not responding to texts or phone calls from one of their attorneys, he said.
The two were located in what was described as an art studio in a building near downtown Detroit late Friday after someone spotted their vehicle parked outside and contacted authorities, the sheriff said.
The caller who reported the vehicle might be eligible for as much as $20,000 offered for information leading to the Crumbleys’ apprehension, U.S. marshal Owen Cypher said at the news conference.
“When the tip came in, the person was apparently outside smoking, and they pretty much ran away,” Bouchard said. “Where they were and how they were seems to support the position they were hiding, and they weren’t looking for surrendering at that point.”
He credited Detroit Police Chief James E. White for the crucial role his department, which scrambled quickly and set up a perimeter in an area near the Canadian border, played in capturing the two.
When the duo was allegedly on the run, the pair’s attorneys insisted they’d be at a postponed arraignment Saturday morning, which they were after being apprehended.
“Were they actually going to do it?” Bouchard said. “I don’t know. But given that they were hiding in a warehouse in Detroit, that certainly raises my eyebrows.”
Officials are investigating whether someone at the Detroit location helped the couple, and it will ultimately be up to prosecutors to weigh charges, the sheriff said.
“We believe they were assisted,” he said.
The Crumbleys and their son are all being held in isolation at the Oakland County jail, Bouchard said.
Four students were killed in the attack and have been identified as Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17. Seven others, including a teacher, were wounded.
A teacher raised the issue of the suspect allegedly searching for ammunition on his cellphone a day before the attack, authorities said.
And the day of the violence the Crumbleys were summoned to speak to administrators after the teen allegedly produced disturbing images that included a gun, ammunition, and the words “blood everywhere,” McDonald said after the shooting.
The boy wasn’t pulled out of school, nor was he prohibited from campus, she indicated, and the attack took place after that meeting.
Bouchard suggested the school should have notified authorities when the Crumbleys were summoned.
“At that point we would have loved to have been looped in,” he said.
The sheriff expressed concern for students and law enforcement who witnessed the violence and its immediate aftermath.
“There were some 18 unexpended rounds,” Bouchard said. “Could have been 18 more kids.”
Tim Throne, superintendent of Oakland Community Schools, said in a letter to the district’s community Saturday that he has asked for a “third-party review” of administrators’ actions before the shooting.
But he appeared to defend their decision to keep the suspect, identified by authorities as 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, on campus.
“Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house,” Throne said.
Bouchard didn’t rule out including school officials in the investigation but reiterated that any possible charges were the province of prosecutors.
“Everything that happened, from preceding, to that point, to after, ‘til we stand here today will be under investigation,” Bouchard said. “Every tidbit we learn will be handed over to our prosecutor for … follow-on charges, if applicable.”