OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (NewsNation Now) — For the first time in history, the parents of an alleged school shooter might be charged in connection to their child’s alleged crime.
The prosecutor in Oxford, Michigan, made the stunning announcement Wednesday as Ethan Crumbley, 15, faced a judge for the first time and was charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism.
Crumbley’s father bought the 9 mm Sig. Sauer gun believed to have been used in the shooting last week, according to the county sheriff.
Prosecutor Karen McDonald said the gun was not locked and secure, and there was “strong evidence to suggest there was gross negligence” Thursday on “Morning in America.” McDonald said Thursday that the gun “seems to have been just freely available” to the teenager.
“Because with the right to gun ownership also brings responsibilities and the details that surround the access to that gun by mom and dad will be released very soon,” McDonald said. “But yes, we’re considering very serious charges. It goes far beyond negligence of a parent; let me just put it that way.”
Legal analyst Karen Conti told “On Balance” that there are no laws in Michigan saying, “If you have children, you have to lock up your gun.”
Still, Conti believes the parents could be held responsible in some way.
“If the parents knew he was acting goofy, and he was posting stuff on social media, saying, ‘I’m going to kill students, and hey, by the way, here’s my dad’s handgun,’ well, then I think the parents are culpable in some way, whether that’s actually charging them for terrorism or charging them for some kind of accountability,” Conti said.
Sheriff Mike Bouchard told reporters that Crumbley’s parents were called to the school Tuesday “for behavior in the classroom that was concerning.” The teen remained in school, and the shooting occurred a few hours later.
Conti says Michigan’s law is “really bizarre.”
“It says that if a child is under 18, a parent can be held liable criminally for a child’s actions if the child under 18 uses a gun at the school and if the parent knew the crime was going to be committed and did something to further the crime,” Conti said. “How are you going to prove these parents knew that this child was going to do it and did something to help the child do it?”
She says laws overall don’t provide much criminal liability for parents.
Investigators have not announced a motive for Tuesday’s shooting at Oxford High School, about 30 miles north of Detroit.
It was the deadliest school shooting since the Santa Fe, Texas, High School massacre in 2018, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings database. The U.S. has had 31 mass killings this year, of which 28 involved firearms.