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‘Don’t do it’: Prosecutor reveals chilling details on alleged Michigan high school shooter’s actions, texts with parents

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald announced involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of the alleged Michigan high school shooter Ethan Crumbley on Friday.Eric Seals/Associated Press

A prosecutor on Friday charged the parents of the alleged Michigan high school shooter with involuntary manslaughter and released a number of chilling new details about the 15-year-old boy’s actions leading up to the fatal shooting.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes that include murder, attempted murder, and terrorism for the shooting at Oxford High School on Tuesday. His parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Four students, Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, and Justin Shilling were killed in the shooting, and seven people were injured.


As Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald disclosed the charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley, she described what led up to those charges during a press briefing on Friday.

Here’s what we learned:

Before the shooting

The investigation revealed that James purchased the semi-automatic gun from Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford on Nov. 26. A store employee confirmed that Ethan was with James during the purchase.

That day, McDonald said, Ethan’s social media included a post of a semi-automatic gun with the caption: “Just got my new beauty today,” he wrote, including an emoji with hearts. “Sig Sauer nine-millimeter. Any questions I will answer.”

One of Jennifer’s social media posts on Nov. 27 read: “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present.”

McDonald said that it appeared Jennifer and James had purchased the gun for their son.

“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,” McDonald said.

The day before the shooting, on Nov. 29, McDonald said a teacher at Oxford High School saw Ethan searching ammunition on his phone during class and reported it to school officials. Jennifer was contacted by voicemail by school officials about her son’s “inappropriate Internet search,” McDonald said. School officials said they followed the voicemail up with an e-mail but did not receive a response from either parent.


Jennifer then allegedly exchanged text messages about the incident with Ethan on that day and wrote: “Lol I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

The morning of the shooting

On the morning of the shooting, Ethan’s teacher found a note on his desk that “alarmed her to the point that she took a picture of it on her cell phone,” McDonald said.

McDonald said that the note contained: “a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words: ‘The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.’ 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.’ ”

James and Jennifer were “immediately summoned” to the school, McDonald said, and a school counselor brought Ethan to the office with his backpack that prosecutors and police believe contained the gun.

“The counselor obtained the drawing, but the shooter had already altered it,” McDonald said. Drawings of the gun, the bloody figure, and the words “help me,” “my life is useless,” “the world is dead,” and “blood everywhere,” were altered by Ethan, McDonald said.


James and Jennifer were shown the drawing at the meeting and told they were required to get Ethan 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,” McDonald said.

James and Jennifer “resisted the idea” of Ethan leaving the school, and instead left without Ethan, who went back to the classroom, McDonald said.

McDonald declined to answer a question from a reporter about whether the school pushed to have Ethan removed and his parents resisted, reiterating that he returned to class with his backpack, where prosecutors believe the gun was being stored.

“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,” McDonald said.

When asked if she is tasked with reviewing whether there was criminal negligence in that decision, she responded: “I do, and the investigation is ongoing.”

Tim Throne, the superintendent of Oxford Community Schools, said in a video address on Thursday that “no discipline was warranted” when Ethan was called into the office on the day of the shooting.


“There’s been a lot of talk about the student that was apprehended that he was called up to the office and all that kind of stuff,” Thone said in the 12-minute video. “No discipline was warranted. There are no discipline records at the high school. Yes, this student did have contact with our front office. And yes, his parents were on campus Nov. 30.”

McDonald said she had seen parts of Throne’s video and had been briefed on it.

When asked by a reporter if there were missteps by the school and if they should have reported the contents of the drawing to law enforcement, McDonald said: “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.”

At 12:52 p.m., police were dispatched to respond to a report of a school shooting.

After news of the shooting emerged

As news of the shooting was made public, Jennifer texted her son at 1:22 p.m.: “Ethan, don’t do it.”

“Upon hearing that there was an active shooter on that day, Mr. Crumbley drove straight to his home to look for his gun,” McDonald added.

At 1:37 p.m., “James called 911 reporting that a gun was missing from his house, and he believed his son may be the shooter,” McDonald said.

The investigation showed that the gun James purchased was stored in an unlocked drawer in James and Jennifer’s bedroom, and that the gun recovered from Ethan at the school was the same gun James purchased, prosecutors said.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.