Canadian Security Magazine

Michigan jury returns to decide fate of school shooter’s father in deaths of 4 students

By The Associated Press   

News K-12 active shooter

By Ed White

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A jury in Michigan resumed deliberations Thursday in a trial that will determine whether another parent will be held criminally responsible for a mass school shooting committed by a teenage son.

The jury heard closing arguments in a suburban Detroit court and met for roughly 90 minutes Wednesday before going home without a verdict in the involuntary manslaughter trial of James Crumbley.

Crumbley, 47, is the father of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old boy who took a gun from home and killed four students at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021.

During a five-day trial, prosecutors showed that the gun, a newly acquired Sig Sauer 9 mm, was not safely secured at the Crumbley home.

While Michigan didn’t have a storage law at that time, James Crumbley had a “legal duty” to protect others from possible harm by his son, prosecutor Karen McDonald said.

The case, she said, was about more than just access to a gun.

Ethan’s mental state was slipping on the day of the shooting: He made a macabre drawing of a gun and a wounded man on a math assignment and added, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. Blood everywhere. The world is dead.”

But the parents declined to take Ethan home following a brief meeting at the school, accepting only a list of mental health providers as they returned to work. They didn’t tell school staff that a handgun similar to one in the drawing had been purchased by James Crumbley just four days earlier.

Ethan pulled the gun from his backpack a few hours later and began shooting. No one had checked the bag.

Parents are not responsible for everything their kids do but “this is a very egregious and rare set of facts,” McDonald told the jury.

In a dramatic step, the prosecutor demonstrated how to use a cable to lock the gun that was used in the shooting. The cable was found unused in a package in the Crumbley home.

“Ten seconds,” McDonald told jurors, “of the easiest, simplest thing.”

The Oxford victims were Justin Shilling, 17; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Tate Myre, 16.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are the first U.S. parents to be charged with having responsibility for a mass school shooting by a child. Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last month.

Earlier in November 2021, Ethan wrote in his journal that he needed help for his mental health “but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help.”

In her closing remarks, defense attorney Mariell Lehman said James Crumbley didn’t know that Ethan knew where to find the gun at home. She said school officials seemed more concerned about him harming himself, not others.

“They saw images that weren’t concerning, that are common, that other kids write and draw about,” Lehman said of the boy’s anguished drawing on the math paper. “The concern was that he was sad and needed to talk to someone.”

James Crumbley “had no idea” that his son was capable of a mass shooting, she said.

Ethan Crumbley, now 17, is serving a life prison sentence for murder and terrorism.

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