Dec 3, 2021
Prosecutors File Charges Against Oxford High School Shooting Suspect’s Parents: Press Conference Transcript
Michigan prosecutors are pressing charges against the parents of the Oxford High School shooter suspect. Read the transcript of the December 3 press conference announcement here.
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Karen McDonald: (00:01)
Thank you for joining me this morning. It’s been a devastating week for all of us, as we continue to mourn the loss of the four children who were shot and killed this week in Oxford High School. We’ve heard some positive news that some of those injured in Tuesday’s shooting have made some progress recovering from their physical injuries. While the physical wounds of the victims are starting to heal the emotional wounds to the victims, students and the entire community will last for years. I continue to work with Oakland County sheriff, Mike Bouchard and his team to stay close to the facts and evidence of this case as it continues to evolve.
Karen McDonald: (00:43)
My role as the Oakland county prosecutor is to seek justice for the victims of this tragedy, the family, friends and loved ones of Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre and Justin Shilling, and the other victims who’ve had their lives shattered. As I mentioned a few days ago, I did have the opportunity to speak with the parents of the children who were killed. Additionally, my office has reached out this morning to all of the victims who were injured, and we continue to be dedicated to offering them services and support during this time. While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30th, and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well. It’s imperative we prevent this from happening again.
Karen McDonald: (01:38)
No other parent or community should have to live through this nightmare. I have shared previously and I will reiterate today that gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility. Based on the information and evidence I have received, today I am announcing charges against the shooter’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley. The charges are as follows. James Crumbley is charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Jennifer Crumbley is also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. I will now publish the details that led to that decision and have already previously been made public, which allows me to comment on them in a swear-to that has just taken in place in the district court by detective Tim Willis.
Karen McDonald: (02:33)
The investigation into the school’s shooting incident, Oxford High School which occurred on November 30th, 2021 has revealed that James Crumbley purchased a Sig Sauer 9mm model SP 2022 from Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford, Michigan on November 26th, 2021. A store employee confirms that Ethan Crumbley was present with James at the time of the purchase. Per statute, James Crumbley completed ATF form 5309A.
Karen McDonald: (03:09)
On or about November 26/21, Ethan Crumbley’s social media posts revealed photos of the semiautomatic handgun along with the caption, “Just got my new beauty today.” Including an emoji with hearts. “Sig Sauer 9mm. Any questions I will answer.” Subsequent to the purchase of that weapon, one of Jennifer Crumbley’s social media posts on about 11/27/21 read “Mom on Sunday testing out his new Christmas present.” And November 21st, 21, a teacher at the Oxford High School observed Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported the same to school officials. Jennifer Crumbley was contacted via voicemail by school personnel regarding the son’s inappropriate internet search. School personnel indicate they followed that voicemail up with an email, but received no response from either parent. Thereafter, Jennifer Crumbley exchanged text messages about the incident with her son on that day stating, “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
Karen McDonald: (04:19)
On November 30th, 21 the morning of the shooting, the next day, Ethan Crumbley’s teacher came upon a note on Ethan’s desk which alarmed her to the point that she took a picture of it on her cell phone. The note contained the following, a drawing of a semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.” In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words, above that bullet, “Blood everywhere.” Between the drawing of the gun and the bullet is a drawing of a person who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding. Below that figure is a drawing of a laughing emoji. Further down the drawing are the words, “My life is useless.” And to the right of that are the words, “The world is dead.”
Karen McDonald: (05:10)
As a result, James and Jennifer Crumbley were immediately summoned to the school. A school counselor came to the classroom and removed the shooter and brought him to the office with his backpack. Counselor obtained the drawing but the shooter had already altered it. The drawings of the gun and the bloody figure were scratched out along with the words help me and my life is useless, the world is dead and blood everywhere. Those were all altered by him. At the meeting, James and Jennifer Crumbley were shown the drawing and were advised that they were required to get their son into counseling within 48 hours. Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him or where his gun was located and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun, which he had with him. James and Jennifer Crumbley resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time. Instead, James and Jennifer Crumbley left the high school without their son. He was returned to the classroom.
Karen McDonald: (06:19)
When the news of the active shooter at Oxford High School had been made public, Jennifer Crumbley texted to her son at 1:22 PM, “Ethan, don’t do it.” At 1:37 PM, James Crumbley called 911, reporting that a gun was missing from his house and he believed his son may be the shooter. Further investigation revealed that the Sig Sauer 9mm handgun purchased by James Crumbley was stored unlocked in a drawer in James and Jennifer’s bedroom. The gun recovered from the shooter at the school after the shooting was the same gun that was purchased by his father, James Crumbley on November 26th, 2021 in the presence of his son. Based upon the foregoing, the Oakland County prosecutor’s office requested and received… Authorized we charge four counts of involuntary manslaughter as to James Crumbley and four counts of involuntary manslaughter as to Jennifer Crumbley.
Karen McDonald: (07:48)
I want to be really clear that these charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable, and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences. As we work together to honor the lives lost and all of those impacted by the evil acts this week, justice for the victims and their families is at the forefront of today’s announcement. We need to do better in this country. We need to say enough is enough for our kids, our teachers, parents, for all of us in this community and the communities across this nation. I’m happy to take questions now.
Speaker 2: (08:42)
Last night the superintendent [crosstalk 00:08:44].
Karen McDonald: (08:43)
One moment. Go ahead, Mr. [inaudible 00:08:47].
Speaker 2: (08:46)
Last night the superintendent posted a video and suggested that as a result of that meeting, they saw no reason to contact law enforcement if there was no danger. Have you seen his video that was posted to YouTube last night, and is there any thought you can share on that based on what you’ve said today?
Karen McDonald: (09:02)
I viewed portions of it and was briefed on the contents of the video.
Speaker 3: (09:08)
Were there any missteps by the school? Should they have reported right away to law enforcement after seeing those images?
Karen McDonald: (09:17)
Any individual who had the opportunity to stop this tragedy should have done so. The question is what did they know, and when did they know it? I’ve laid out the facts that were sworn to this afternoon and are the basis for the charges here? Did you have a question?
Speaker 4: (09:35)
Yes. You said we need to do better, there needs to be changes to prevent tragedies like this. It’s extremely rare for parents to be charged in school shootings. Are you trying to set a new standard or is the evidence simply overwhelming in this case?
Karen McDonald: (09:47)
I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents who have children who are struggling and at risk for whatever reason. And I am by no means saying that an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents. But the facts of this case are so egregious, reading this document, looking at it, reading the words, help me with a gun, blood everywhere. This doesn’t just impact me as a prosecutor and a lawyer, it impacts me as a mother. The notion 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, and I think it’s criminal. It is criminal.
Speaker 5: (10:37)
[inaudible 00:10:37] for their son who is underage and not allowed to own a firearm in Michigan?
Karen McDonald: (10:42)
I believe that the facts probably indicate that that’s the result, but that would be a federal charge. And if that’s appropriate to make that the… I’m confident that they will. Question?
Speaker 6: (10:56)
What level of responsibility do you expect from parents in a situation like this?
Karen McDonald: (11:02)
Well, again, I don’t think that this is a unique or unusual interpretation. When you give your child access to a deadly weapon, when you indicate that you’re buying a weapon and you sign that it’s for yourself, yet, clearly based on the statements of the shooter, the statements of mom, that was his gun. And then we have the searching of ammunition. We have mom saying, “At least you didn’t get caught.” We have the next morning drawing essentially almost explicitly what he was about to do. I mean, I expect parents and everyone to have humanity, and to step in and stop a potential tragedy.
Speaker 7: (11:57)
Are they in custody already?
Karen McDonald: (12:00)
I’m not going to make a comment on that.
Speaker 9: (12:02)
Can you give us some more detail on the meeting between the parents and the school? You said they were resistant to having their son pull out of class that day. Hours later, he went on to do the shooting and there was no communication from the parents that he may have access to a handgun, or maybe in possession of a handgun after they had been publicly on social media.
Karen McDonald: (12:22)
I can confirm what I just stated, which is that they did not indicate to school officials or to their son and inquire about the whereabouts of the gun or the existence of the gun to my knowledge.
Speaker 9: (12:39)
But the school had pushed to have him removed and they were [inaudible 00:12:41] Can you give us more detail on that?
Karen McDonald: (12:43)
I’m not aware. I can’t comment on that this time. He was not removed from the school. He was returned back to class with his backpack, where we have reason to believe the gun was stored in the backpack. Did you have a question right here?
Speaker 8: (12:56)
Did school officials ask to inspect the backpack or ask questions about whether the child or the shooter had a weapon with them?
Karen McDonald: (13:05)
Not that we have been advised, no.
Speaker 6: (13:06)
Do you know if between the first incident and the second at the school, the two teachers or whatever, were each aware of what had transpired? Like the teacher number two, was that teacher aware of what happened on day one? Was it on Friday?
Karen McDonald: (13:20)
I can’t speak to that. I don’t know.
Speaker 6: (13:23)
And the other thing I have is for the families. Have you briefed them on what your investigation has found specifically with the school?
Karen McDonald: (13:30)
I have spoken to the parents and indicated the nature of the charges that might be coming. I have not spoken about the school.
Speaker 6: (13:42)
What was their reaction in terms of your communication with them about charges?
Karen McDonald: (13:48)
These people are in incredibly deep, horrific pain and grief. Their reaction is as you expect, they will want anyone who had the opportunity to stop this from happening to have done it.
Speaker 6: (14:03)
Will the parents be arrested today or will they be allowed to turn themselves in?
Karen McDonald: (14:06)
I can’t comment on that.
Speaker 10: (14:09)
[inaudible 00:14:09] looking at anybody else for charges, maybe school officials?
Karen McDonald: (14:15)
The investigations are ongoing.
Speaker 11: (14:17)
Why aren’t you-
Speaker 12: (14:17)
Do you have any reason to believe, or the teachers have any reason to believe that he had a weapon on him that day?
Karen McDonald: (14:24)
I’ve stated what was known to the individuals, what the search indicated an ammunition, what the document… I stated every single sentence that was on that document. So I suppose you should draw your own conclusion. The conclusion I draw is that there was absolute reason to believe this individual was dangerous and disturbed, and I’ll leave it at that.
Speaker 15: (14:52)
Is the school district fully cooperating with the investigation at this point?
Karen McDonald: (14:58)
I haven’t conducted the investigation, so I can’t say.
Speaker 16: (15:02)
Prior to the shooting, did the district superintendent’s office know about the issues that happened in the high school? Did it stay in the high school, or did someone in the high school actually go to the superintendent’s office or the administration and say, “This is what we have going on”?
Karen McDonald: (15:18)
I don’t have any information about that at this time.
Speaker 16: (15:20)
Speaker 17: (15:21)
Hindsight being what it is, how was this young man allowed to go back to class? Given the circumstances you’ve described, the severity you’re talking about. You mentioned it’s still under investigation and there are victims too, I’m not trying to assess blame, but yet they let him back in class with this type of severity. How does that happen?
Karen McDonald: (15:46)
I’m not going to give you a political answer and I’m not going to cover for anybody. And I’m just going to say what I think. And that is, of course he shouldn’t have gone back to that classroom. Of course he shouldn’t have. And I don’t have ill feelings or negative feelings about any anyone. But of course he should have. He should not have been allowed to go back to that class. And I believe that that is a universal position and, and I’m not going to chastise or attack, but yeah, I mean-,
Speaker 17: (16:23)
But you have the task of reviewing whether there’s criminal negligence there.
Karen McDonald: (16:28)
I do. And the investigation’s ongoing.
Speaker 17: (16:31)
Were these involuntary manslaughter charges the strongest possible charges you were considering for the parents?
Karen McDonald: (16:37)
It’s the strongest possible charge that we could prove, and that there’s probable cause to charge.
Speaker 18: (16:46)
So obviously it’s illegal for a minor to own a handgun. What are Michigan’s laws regarding bringing a child to a firing range and practicing with them? States have different rules on that. I’m not sure where we’re at.
Karen McDonald: (16:58)
Good question. Michigan’s laws are woefully inadequate. We don’t have a safe storage law. We’re not legally required to store your weapon in a safe manner. Children are allowed to attend with their parents so long as their parents is present. So the answer to that question is we don’t have strong enough laws.
Speaker 19: (17:15)
Have you uncovered any evidence from before the gun purchase and the days leading up to this that shows what his state of mind was? Were the parents aware what his state of mind was leading up to the day of the shooting?
Karen McDonald: (17:29)
There’s evidence about state of mind prior to that day. I can’t comment on it. It is not related to the allegations that we’re making at this time. Yes.
Speaker 20: (17:40)
And are the teachers injured in the shooting one of the teachers who made any of the complaints?
Karen McDonald: (17:47)
I don’t believe so, but I can’t say that for certain.
Speaker 21: (17:50)
Prosecutor, how long was the plot? You described it as pre-meditated. How long had it been meditated?
Karen McDonald: (18:01)
Long enough? Long enough. Yes.
Speaker 22: (18:04)
Catherine, you said that at one point-
Karen McDonald: (18:06)
One second. Go ahead.
Speaker 22: (18:06)
You said that at one point, the father became aware that the gun was missing. Is there any indication that he might have known the gun was missing before the shooting or during or before that meeting with the principals?
Karen McDonald: (18:16)
Upon hearing that there was an active shooter on that day, Mr. Crumbley drove straight to his home to look for his gun. I think that’s all I need to say about that.
Speaker 9: (18:28)
Could the gun shop perhaps be liable if they could see that the weapon was being purchased for a 15 year old, not really for the father?
Karen McDonald: (18:36)
Based on what we’ve reviewed, the gun shop owners is not under investigation.
Speaker 7: (18:41)
Do you know at any point during these meetings with the counselors and the parents, if there’s any talks to reach out to the onsite SRO officer with these concerns?
Karen McDonald: (18:52)
Whether they did or not, or-
Speaker 7: (18:53)
Or if there was talks to reach out to them why they did it. If there was concern enough to bring the parents in and to have these meetings.
Karen McDonald: (18:59)
I don’t know. I don’t think we have at this point full statements that I’ve reviewed.
Speaker 21: (19:08)
We’ve been here now for a few days and talked to some law enforcement and sheriffs people, and other… People are really angry at the school. I mean, obviously there’s issues with the parents, but there is a lot of anger with this school. I know it may not be your responsibility to address it, but since you’re the first person in all these days to talk about this, what is your response to that?
Karen McDonald: (19:34)
I’d be angry too, and I am. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a criminal culpability, but yes, I’d be angry. I would be angry. I am angry. I’m angry as a mother, I’m angry as the prosecutor, I’m angry as a person that lives in this county. I’m angry. There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent, and yes, there was a perfectly executed response and, and he was apprehended immediately. And, and we have great law enforcement and good training.
Karen McDonald: (20:06)
But I said before, four kids were murdered and then seven more injured. So yes, I think we should all be very angry and we should take a very hard look at what is in place in terms of criminal responsibility, what gun owners are required to do. And again, I will say this every single hour on the hour I think that I have, I am not here to say that people shouldn’t own guns. I know a lot of people who own guns, but they do so responsibly. And it’s your responsibility. It’s your duty to make sure that you don’t give access to this deadly weapon to somebody that you have reason to believe is going to harm someone. And it is our position that on that morning, particularly that morning, but, but also the day before, that that morning, looking at that drawing, it’s impossible not to conclude that there was a reason to believe he was going to hurt somebody.
Speaker 23: (21:09)
Prosecutor, have you been given any explanation as why the school resource resource officer was not included in that meeting that morning at the school?
Karen McDonald: (21:18)
I don’t have any information. One more question. Yes.
Speaker 24: (21:20)
Can I ask two?
Karen McDonald: (21:20)
Speaker 24: (21:24)
Thank you. Can you confirm the date that Ethan or the suspect was searching about ammo on his phone?
Karen McDonald: (21:30)
It was the day before the shooting.
Speaker 24: (21:31)
Okay. And can you confirm the name of the gun shop where they got the gun?
Karen McDonald: (21:39)
It was Acme.
Speaker 24: (21:41)
And then one more question.
Karen McDonald: (21:42)
You said two. Okay.
Speaker 24: (21:43)
Work classes are on Zoom the days leading up to Thanksgiving? Is that related to this threat?
Karen McDonald: (21:50)
I can’t speak to that. I know that there were in person classes on that day. Thank you very much.
Speaker 25: (21:56)
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Karen McDonald: (21:56)