Oxford High School officials should have checked shooter's belongings

Oxford High School officials ‘could face criminal charges’ and civil lawsuits for NOT checking Ethan Crumbley’s backpack and locker despite warning signs the day before he shot dead four students

  • Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said school officials had the legal authority to search Ethan Crumbley’s backpack and locker before the shooting
  • They can now be charged or face civil lawsuits for their failure to do so
  • McDonald said an investigation will determine whether they will be charged
  • School officials had concerns about Crumbley, 15, before he allegedly shot up Oxford High School last Tuesday
  • That morning a teacher reported him to school officials for disturbing pictures and statements he made
  • He was reportedly watched by guidance counselors for over an hour as officials tried to get in contact with his parents, James and Jennifer
  • When they replied, they said Ethan was not a harm to himself or anyone, and he was allowed to return to class
  • They did not mention that they had bought Ethan a gun when they went Black Friday shopping, McDonald claims 
  • Ethan’s parents are now charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter

Oxford High School officials could face criminal charges and civil lawsuits for failing to search 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley’s backpack and locker before the fatal shooting, a Michigan prosecutor has claimed.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said school officials had the legal authority to search Crumbley’s belongings when they had concerns about drawings and statements he made prior to the fatal shooting last Tuesday.

‘We don’t know exactly if the weapon was in his bag, where it was. We just know it was in the school and he had access to it,’ she said.

And when asked if school staff members could be prosecuted, McDonald told CNN’s Brianna Keilar, ‘We haven’t ruled out charging anyone.’

She later said in another interview with ABC’s Good Morning America that she could charge the school officials in the shooting, noting: ‘In this case, a lot could have been done different.’

McDonald said the  investigation’s findings will determine whether school officials will be charged in last Tuesday’s attack at Oxford High School. 

Ethan was charged as an adult Wednesday with terrorism, first degree murder and other counts in the shooting that killed Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17.

His parents were also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

All three have pleaded not guilty. 

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, right, said school officials had the legal authority to search 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley’s backpack and locker when they had concerns about some drawings and statements he made prior to the fatal shooting last Tuesday, but failed to do so

In the interview on Monday, McDonald said Crumbley’s parents are being criminally prosecuted because ‘we have to start addressing how someone like that can so easily get their hands on a weapon, and we have to hold the people responsible who allowed that to happen.

‘I’m sympathetic to parents, my husband and I have raised five children,’ McDonald noted. ‘I’m certainly not suggesting that parents should be criminally responsible for any bad act of a child.

‘But in this case, you can’t possibly look at their actions and say they didn’t have reason to believe that there was a real concern about a violent act.’ 

On the day of the fatal shooting, Crumbley’s parents met with school officials after a teacher became concerned with a drawing he made that included a bullet and the words ‘blood everywhere’ and statements he made prior to the fatal shooting. 

According to Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne, the teacher alerted school counselors and the dean of students about the drawings and statements Ethan made, after previously viewing images of ammunition on his phone he claimed was for his family’s shooting hobby, and he was ‘immediately removed from the classroom.’

Guidance counselors then monitored him for an hour and a half as they unsuccessfully tried to reach his parents, James and Jennifer.

When they eventually responded, counselors asked them about Ethan’s capacity for harm and concluded ‘he did not intend on committing either self harm or harm to others,’ according to a letter Throne sent to community members over the weekend. 

The guidance counselors reportedly suggested James and Jennifer bring him home for the day, but they said they had to return to work.

A few hours later, Throne writes, Ethan started shooting just before 1pm ‘during passing time between classes when hundreds of students were in the hallway transitioning from one classroom to another.’ 

Thorne said a third party will investigate the events that occurred before the school shooting in Oxford Township, a community of about 23,000 people roughly 30 miles north of Detroit. 

On Sunday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office might conduct the probe.

Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes in the attack. And McDonald filed involuntary manslaughter charges against his parents, saying they failed to intervene on the day of the tragedy despite being confronted with the drawing and its disturbing message.

McDonald said Monday that Crumbley’s parents did not mention during the meeting at the school that Ethan had access to a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. 

Authorities say he used the gun to carry out the attack, and that his father bought it for him at a local gun shop on Black Friday as an early Christmas present. Although the gun was legally sold to James Crumbley, minors in Michigan cannot possess guns aside from in limited situations, such as when hunting with an adult.

‘You can´t even in an airport mention anything that even remotely indicates that there might be some sort of violence on a plane. You´ll be immediately extracted,’ McDonald told ABC.

‘And yet we have a kid who is … saying some pretty concerning things and he was allowed to go back to school, and neither parent mentions that he had access to a weapon.’

Police responded to the scene of Oxford High School in Michigan last Tuesday after receiving numerous calls about shots ringing out

People were seen embracing on Wednesday at a makeshift memorial outside of the high school, where four students were killed

Students mourned at the growing memorial last Wednesday

McDonald said prosecutors have evidence suggesting that the couple ‘purchased that weapon for their 15-year-old and bragged about it online – thought this was some joyous occasion as a present.’

And she said the teen had access to the gun ‘whether it was locked or not’ at his family’s home.

The parents were taken into custody early Saturday after they were caught hiding inside in the Detroit studio of artist Andrzej Sikora. 

The artist’s attorney said Sunday that he is cooperating with investigators and didn’t know the couple was facing charges or that they had stayed overnight at his studio while authorities were searching for them.

The couple´s attorneys have said they didn´t intend to flee.

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