Dad of Michigan School Shooter Heads to Trial

911 call could be 'powerful evidence' in James Crumbley's manslaughter case
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 5, 2024 7:16 AM CST
2nd Parent of Michigan School Shooter Heads to Trial
James Crumbley enters the courtroom during his motion hearing at Oakland County Courthouse, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Pontiac, Mich.   (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News via AP, Pool)

A man who purchased a gun with his son four days before a Michigan school shooting is headed to trial, accused of failing to take steps that could have prevented the teen from killing four students and wounding others. No one says James Crumbley knew what Ethan Crumbley planned to do at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. But prosecutors allege that his "gross negligence" was a cause of the violence, per the AP. It is the second act for prosecutors: Jennifer Crumbley was convicted of the same involuntary manslaughter charges a month ago. They are the first US parents to be charged with having criminal responsibility in a mass school shooting committed by a child. Jury selection in James Crumbley's case starts Tuesday in Oakland County, north of Detroit.

"I don't think it's overreach," Rick Convertino, a Detroit-area defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said of the trials. "What led to the horrific shootings could easily have been prevented by simple and ordinary care." James Crumbley, accompanied by 15-year-old Ethan, purchased a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun over Thanksgiving weekend in 2021. The boy called it his "new beauty" on social media. His mother, also on social media, described the gun as a Christmas gift and took Ethan to a shooting range. A few days later, the parents went to Oxford High to discuss a violent drawing by Ethan, which included a gun and tormented phrases: "The thoughts won't stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless."

The parents "chose silence" instead of disclosing the gun purchase and visit to the shooting range, assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said in a court filing. The Crumbleys didn't take Ethan home, and the school didn't demand it. But the parents departed with a list of area mental health services. No one checked the boy's backpack for a gun, and the shooting happened that afternoon. James Crumbley called 911, frantically saying, "I think my son took the gun." Convertino predicts the call will be "powerful evidence" for prosecutors, who will argue that the father failed to safely store the gun and ammunition. Defense lawyers, however, said the parents could not have foreseen a mass shooting. Both have been in jail for more than two years after failing to post a bond of $500,000 each. Jennifer Crumbley returns to court for her sentence on April 9. (More James Crumbley stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.