(CNN) – The suspect’s parents in a oxford high school shoot in Michigan, which has killed four college students this week, faces manslaughter charges in those deaths.
Legal experts were quick to point out that such accusations are far from the norm – it is James and Jennifer Crumbley’s 15-year-old son Ethan who is accused of pulling the trigger and killing him. four of his high school mates.
“It’s exceptionally unusual,” said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence and Research. “We rarely hold people responsible for handing a gun to someone who shouldn’t have one. “
But it was the alleged seriousness of the couple’s behavior that appears to have led to the accusations.
Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald on Friday presented a timeline of spooky events In the days leading up to the shoot, James Crumbley purchased the Sig Sauer SP2022 9mm semi-automatic pistol just days before it was allegedly used in the shoot, and Jennifer Crumbley posted on social media that he It was a Christmas present for Ethan.
On the day of the shooting, a teacher noticed a disturbing drawing Ethan had made, including “a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words ‘thoughts won’t stop helping me'” and a drawing of a bullet with “blood everywhere” written on it, McDonald said.
Then, when called to the school office and ordered to get advice for their son, the couple did not try to determine the location of the gun or if their son had it. had with him that day, the prosecutor said. The parents “resisted” Ethan’s removal from school that day and he returned to class.
An investigation revealed the gun was stored in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom, McDonald said.
“They didn’t even reveal it then, or check if their son had this gun, or go straight home to see where the gun was…. We know this because right after the public was notified of an active shooter, Daddy goes to his house, and it was for a reason: to look for that gun. And find it missing, then call 911 and say that gun is gone, and I think my son is the shooter, ”McDonald later told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
She added that the Michigan terrorism charge requires action against a community, not a government.
“We must also respect the hundreds of students who were in that school that day, who ran for their lives out of the building, hiding under desks, in the toilets and sending messages. I had the opportunity to look at some of the messages… that these kids were sending to their parents, and I can’t even imagine what it must have been. Receive a text message in which your teenager says, “I love you so much, I think I’m going to be killed. What charge is addressed to this? And the answer is the terrorism charge. I think it is appropriate. McDonald added.
“These are extraordinary charges,” said Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst. “We know prosecutors have been reluctant to indict parents in these school shooting cases, although in some cases, like the Crumbley cases today, parents appear to have some responsibility.”
Their defense lawyers will have to “show that these parents acted responsibly,” Martin said, adding that it was “an uphill battle for this defense team.”
There are no safe gun storage laws in Michigan, the prosecutor said. “We are not legally obligated to store your weapon in a safe manner,” she said.
This could be a sticking point for the prosecution, Charles Coleman Jr., a former prosecutor, told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“Frankly, I don’t think the prosecution is going to have a strong case with them regarding any of the gun possession laws per se, at least not against the parents.”
But because unintentional charges don’t require intent, “I think the charge is going to kick in and get some traction,” with those charges, Coleman said.
After the school informed parents that Ethan Crumbley had searched for ammunition online the day before the shooting, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught, ”McDonald said Friday.
Such texts and ignoring other red flags can “ultimately be seen as helping and encouraging the end result, which is why I think these unintentional accusations are going to stick,” Coleman said. “But I don’t see much coming from any sort of gun possession charges in this case.”
Crifasi welcomed the decision to charge the parents.
“It was good to see the Michigan authorities decide to hold these parents to account. We should do this whenever someone uses a gun, especially in cases where the abuser is someone who cannot legally purchase a gun on their own, ”Crifasi said.
McDonald has said she is not advocating for all parents in active sniper cases to be prosecuted.
“I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents who have troubled and at-risk children, for whatever reason, and I am by no means saying that an active shooter situation should always result in criminal prosecution against them. parents. But the facts of this case are so glaring, ”said McDonald.
“The idea that a parent could read these words and also know that their son had access to a lethal weapon that they gave him is unacceptable, and I think it is criminal,” said the prosecutor.
With the accusations come a hope for change amid all the carnage and heartache, Crifasi said.
“I hope this can be a wake-up call to people about the importance of responsible and safe storage and use of firearms, and that more people take the potential harm associated with guns seriously. giving them access to people who shouldn’t have them, “she said.
Prosecutor says terrorism charges represent other shooting victims
The other uncommon charge in the Ethan Crumbley case is one count of terrorism causing death. McDonald told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon the suspected actions of the suspect fulfill the requirements for a terrorism charge.
“What about all these other kids, and all the kids running around, screaming, hiding under desks,” McDonald said. “What about all the kids at home right now who can’t eat or sleep and can’t imagine a world where they might one day fall back to school?” and the terrorism charge reflects that.
“I don’t think it would be moral not to include this accusation,” McDonald told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday. “If we really want to fix this, if we really want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we have to do things a little differently. “
“There is no manual on how to prosecute a school shooting and frankly I wish I had never had – it didn’t happen so I wouldn’t have to think about it, but when we sat down I wanted to make sure that all the victims were represented in the charges that we brought against this individual, “McDonald told CNN.” If it’s not terrorism, I don’t know not what it is.
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