The parents of a Michigan teenager who the police say fatally shot four classmates in the halls of Oxford High School in suburban Detroit were arrested early Saturday after being the subject of an intense manhunt.
The teenager’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were taken into custody in a commercial building in Detroit after the police received a tip that led them to the location, officials said. Arriving officers spotted their vehicle and moved in to arrest them. It came a day after they were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths, failed to show up for their arraignment and apparently fled town.
“We have in fact taken them into custody without incident,” James E. White, Detroit’s police chief, said at an early-morning news conference. “They appeared to be hiding in the building,” he said, adding, “We got a tip that they were there.”
“They did not resist” when officers moved in to arrest them, he said, describing the couple as “distressed.”
‘Hiding in a Warehouse’
Video surveillance showed one of the parents walking inside the building, Chief White said. He added that they appeared to be “hiding” inside one of the rooms in the commercial building.
“This isn’t indicative of turning themselves in, hiding in a warehouse,” Chief White said.
He said the couple “did not break in” to the building but were let inside by someone. The person who aided them is being investigated by the police and “could be facing charges,” Chief White said.
The person’s relationship to the Crumbleys, he said, was not immediately clear, but the authorities “know who this person is.”
The couple were arraigned on Saturday morning, where they each pleaded not guilty to all four charges of involuntary manslaughter. Before Ms. Crumbley entered her plea, she was asked by the judge if she understood the charges.
“I understand,” she said, tearfully.
The judge set bond at $500,000 for each of the parents.
The couple were charged in the students’ deaths after officials said their son, Ethan Crumbley, 15, carried out the shootings on Tuesday using a handgun his parents had bought for him.
On Friday, Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, said the Crumbleys were culpable in the year’s deadliest school shooting because they had allowed their son access to a handgun while ignoring glaring warnings that he was on the brink of violence.
Law enforcement officials said that the parents had gone missing on Friday afternoon, prompting a manhunt that involved the county’s fugitive-apprehension team, F.B.I. agents and United States Marshals. The search drew in the Detroit police when officials received the tip that led them to the area where Saturday’s arrest took place, just north of the Detroit River.
“They cannot run from their part in this tragedy,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County said in a statement on Friday, before the couple were apprehended.
Debate Over Gun Access
At the arraignment, Ms. McDonald, referring to the couple’s son, argued that the parents had the ability to prevent the tragedy. “These two individuals could have stopped it,” she said. “And they had every reason to know he was dangerous, and they gave him a weapon and they didn’t secure it. And they allowed him free access to it.”
But the couple’s defense lawyers maintained that the couple were not fleeing. The parents, the defense lawyer Shannon Smith said, were “absolutely going to turn themselves in.” She attributed the delay to miscommunication with the prosecutor’s office.
“They were scared. They were terrified,” Ms. Smith said. “They were figuring out what to do, getting finances in order.” She added later that, “All the prosecution had to do was communicate with me about it. And we tried multiple times.”
During a news conference Saturday afternoon, Sheriff Bouchard questioned whether the Crumbleys were indeed intending on turning themselves in.
“Were they actually going to do it? I don’t know, but given that they were hiding in a warehouse in Detroit, it certainly raises my eyebrows,” Mr. Bouchard said.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics, but I think where they were and how they were seems to support the position they were hiding and they weren’t looking for surrendering at that point.”
The defense lawyers also disputed the prosecutor’s statement that the gun was easily accessible in the Crumbley home. “The court is only aware of the facts the prosecution has presented, but that gun was actually locked,” Ms. Smith said. She also said that “there is far more going on than what this court has been made aware of.”
The deadly gunfire in Oxford, in Oakland County — about 30 miles north of Detroit — added to a growing list of shootings this year on school grounds in the United States after a lull during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, when many schools held classes remotely.
In announcing the charges against the parents, Ms. McDonald gave a detailed accounting of Ethan Crumbley’s alleged actions leading up to the shooting.
On the morning of Nov. 30, the day of the shooting, she said, the suspect’s parents were urgently called into the high school after one of his teachers found an alarming note he had drawn, scrawled with images of a gun, a person who had been shot and a laughing emoji, and the words, “Blood everywhere,” and, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
The day before the shooting, a teacher had seen the suspect searching online for ammunition for the gun in class, which led to a meeting with school officials, the prosecutor said. After being informed by the school about their son’s behavior, Ms. McDonald said, Ms. Crumbley texted her son: “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
The shooting took the lives of Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.