More than 12 hours after they were charged with involuntary manslaughter, the parents of the high school sophomore who is accused of killing four classmates in Detroit were arrested early Saturday morning. James and Jennifer Crumbley pleaded not guilty to charges against them shortly after they were found in a commercial building in Detroit when authorities received a tip that their car had been seen in the area. A judge in Oakland County set bond at $500,000 each for the parents of Ethan Crumbley. The arrest ended a period of contradictory statements in which authorities said they were looking for the couple while their lawyer insisted they had left town “for their own safety” and had every intention to surrender. Detroit Police Chief James E. White made clear he didn’t quite buy the explanation. “This isn’t indicative of turning yourself in—hiding in a warehouse,” White said.
Authorities said someone helped the Crumbleys get into the building where they were located and that person could also face charges. The couple appeared “distressed” but did not resist when they were detained, White said. The Crumbleys had been charged in part because they bought the gun that their 15-year-old son is accused of using in Tuesday’s shooting at Oxford High School, which is located around 30 miles north of Detroit. It was an early Christmas gift that the father bought on Black Friday with his son present. It marks a rare case of authorities filing criminal charges against parents or family members for a shooting committed by a minor even though they are often carried out using guns taken from their homes.
In this case, prosecutors said that it wasn’t just that the Crumbleys had allowed their son access to a handgun, they also ignored lots of warning signs that he was getting ready to carry out violence. The high school started getting worried on Monday, a day before the shooting, when the suspect was seen searching for ammunition on his phone. His mother was contacted but later sent her son a text message: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” The next day, the school urgently called the suspect’s parents after a teacher found a note on his desk that had the images of a gun, a person who had been shot, and the words “Blood everywhere,” and, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” The parents didn’t take immediate action, never asked their son about the location of his gun, and resisted a push to get him to leave school. The 15-year-old returned to class and hours later reportedly opened fire in a hallway, eventually killing four students ranging in age from 14 to 17. After the suspect’s father heard about the shooting he looked for the gun and called the police when he realized it was missing.
*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.