One week after a school shooting in Michigan that killed four students and led to the manhunt and arrest of the suspect’s parents, officials are wondering how the tragedy could have been prevented.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said Monday that the bloodshed could have been avoided had the suspect’s parents been more forthcoming about his access to firearms.
“I’m certainly not suggesting that parents should be criminally prosecuted for any bad act of a child,” McDonald told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “But in this case, you can’t possibly look at their actions and say that they didn’t have reason to believe that there was real concern about a violent act.”
Ethan Crumbley, 15, is accused of fatally shooting four classmates and wounding several others on November 30. His parents were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the same incident. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege that James Crumbley, the father of the suspected shooter, bought the gun used in the shooting four days earlier. His mother, Jennifer, posted about the gun on social media, calling it “his new Christmas present.”
“All of this could have been prevented if he hadn’t had access (to a gun) or if just one of those parents had said, ‘I’m concerned about what I’m seeing right now and I also want you to know we just bought him a gun for Christmas,’ and that didn’t happen,” McDonald said, adding that the evidence against them is “just really hard to stomach.”
Crumbley had a meeting with school officials and his parents on Tuesday after a teacher was concerned over violent statements and drawings he made. After being instructed to find counseling within 48 hours and allowed to return to class, he began shooting others in between class periods.
Prosecutors say it is likely the firearm was in his backpack during the meeting, and the school had legal grounds to search his bag and locker.
The four students who were killed: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17. Six other students and a teacher were wounded by gunfire.
Warning signs were missed
Casey Smith, whose daughter is a student at Oxford High and was standing in the hallway near where the shooting started, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday that he and others find it “incredibly frustrating” that multiple warning signs in the days and hours leading up to the shooting were missed.
“Clearly something should have been done, and there was the opportunity to do something that could have prevented this horrific tragedy,” he said.
But spotting red flags can sometimes be a challenge for schools, Chris Dorn, senior analyst at non-profit campus safety organization Safe Havens International told CNN on Monday, because “educators aren’t designed to look for the danger, to look for the next active shooter. Their job is to educate and nurture kids.”
Smith hailed “the courageousness of these kids in this community,” saying that his daughter and friends are hoping to return to school.
“It just speaks to their character. That’s amazing to me,” he said. “We just have to — as parents and a community and as a state — not just make them feel safe, but ensure that they’re safe now so they can do that.”
In a Sunday letter to the school community, Oxford Community Schools superintendent Tim Throne said a reopening plan for the district includes a “soft opening” with a law enforcement presence as well as trained clinicians to support students and staff.
Elementary schools and a few select programs will return Friday for a half-day and December 13 for full days.
He added that it will be “quite sometime before the high school is ready to serve as an educational setting again.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday that state officials had offered to conduct a full review of the events that led up to the shooting, and that she was “disappointed quite honestly” that the school district will go with a private security firm instead.
On Saturday, Throne told families the district had asked for an “independent security consultant” to review all district safety practices and procedures.
“Obviously, we hope the school district cares as much about the safety of their students as they do shielding themselves from civil liability,” Nessel said. “We’re going to talk to the parents and students in Oxford and see what it is they want to see happen, and I’m sure they will make their feelings known about the rejection of our offer.”
CNN has reached out to Oxford Community Schools for comment.
As the investigation into the timeline of events continues, the Crumbleys are being held at the Oakland County Jail.
But because the accused shooter is a juvenile and in a different part of the facility, he would have no possible interactions with his incarcerated parents, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN’s Michael Smerconish.
Male and female populations are also separated, Bouchard said.
Crumbley is aware that his parents are in custody, according to Paulette Michel Loftin, Crumbley’s court-appointed attorney.
Ethan Crumbley’s next court date is December 13 and will occur over Zoom, Loftin said. This court proceeding will set a date for Crumbley’s next court appearance and preliminary examination, during which prosecutors are expected to give even more evidence and the judge will decide to go forward with the trial.
Search warrant issued following arrest of Crumbleys
Meanwhile, a search warrant was executed Monday at the home of a man who may have helped James and Jennifer Crumbley before their arrest, as the pair were later found in his workspace.
The parents were due to attend an arraignment Friday to face charges, yet their failure to appear made them fugitives and led authorities on a manhunt for the couple. The pair were found in an industrial building in nearby Detroit early the next day after police received a tip that their vehicle was nearby.
Authorities seized “several digital devices” from the home of Andrzej Sikora, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
Sikora is being cooperative, Oakland County Undersheriff Michael G. McCabe told CNN. He and his attorney, Clarence Dass, voluntarily went into the sheriff’s office Monday where Sikora was interviewed for 90 minutes.
“Mr. Sikora fully cooperated and answered all of law enforcement’s questions,” a statement from Dass said. “Mr. Sikora did not assist the Crumbleys in evading law enforcement, did not know there was a warrant for their arrest, and did not know they were at his art studio at the time of their arrest. He has not been charged with any crime, and will continue to assist members law enforcement in their pursuit of justice.”
Dass told CNN on Sunday his client knew the Crumbleys were using his workspace, but he “did not really know what was going on” and didn’t know the couple “had active warrants” when they were discovered and subsequently arrested, adding that Sikora “got roped into it.”
A statement from the sheriff’s office said the warrant was executed “immediately after questioning,” and the main issue for investigators “is what did Sikora know and when did he know it.”
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