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Can a Michigan parent be held responsible in gun violence?

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:44 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A vigil was held Friday evening to honor and remember the lives lost in Tuesday’s shooting at Oxford High School.

A visibly emotional Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke at the memorial to highlight the work of Good Samaritans who helped Michigan get through the week.

“I’m here today as a mom. I’m here today as a fellow Michigander,” Whitmer said. “And I want everyone of Oxford to know that moms and dads across our state are are mourning with you.”

Related: 15-year-old boy arraigned on charges of terrorism, murder in fatal Oxford High School shooting

As of Friday evening, police are still searching for the parents of the suspect shooter. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is joined by U.S. Marshals in the search.

James Robert Crumbley and Jennifer Lynn Crumbley are both facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

They were expected to be arraigned Friday, but they have yet to have been located. A $10,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to their arrest.

It’s not often that parents face legal consequences in these types of incidents, but for Ethan Crumbley’s parents, the Oakland County prosecuting attorney believes there’s enough evidence to argue the two played a key role in the tragedy.

According to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, the gun believed to have been used by Ethan Crumbley was purchased by his father days before the shooting. McDonald said the gun was stored in an unlocked drawer and was “freely available” to the teenager.

On the morning of the shooting, Crumbley and his parents reportedly met with school authorities to address a gruesome picture he had drawn that involved a gun, a person who had been shot twice and the words “help me” and “the world is dead.”

Shortly after, the 15-year-old was sent back to class.

“This doesn’t just impact me as a prosecutor and a lawyer it impacts me as a mother. The notions that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable,” McDonald said. “I think it’s criminal and it is criminal.”

Related: Suspect’s parents resisted removing him from Oxford High School 3 hours before fatal shooting

Ingham County prosecutor Carol Siemon said holing parents accountable can be difficult, especially when gun laws in Michigan aren’t very strict.

“Just the mere ability to readily get guns doesn’t have the kind of safe storage laws that some other states have,” Siemon said. “We’re not a safe state when it comes to people open-carrying or having access to assault weapons.”

While she doesn’t agree the legal system should always be appropriate channel to discipline bad parents, Siemon said with the evidence available, the prosecutor has a responsibility to charge Jennifer and James Crumbley.

“It’s your responsibility to monitor you children and to monitor things you have in your own home,” Siemon said. “If your parenting behavior is so reckless and negligent, prosecutors have to take action. We have to say the legal system will not put up with people who are not being responsible to other members of the community.”

Ethan Crumbley was arraigned Wednesday on one charge of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm. He is being charged as an adult.

Read: 15-year-old boy arraigned on charges of terrorism, murder in fatal Oxford High School shooting

If convicted, Ethan Crumbley faces life in prison without parole. He pleaded not-guilty to the charges.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office at 248-858-4911 or by email at ocso@oakgov.com.

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