The parents of a boy who shot and killed four high school classmates must stand trial for manslaughter, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.
Ethan Crumbley, 16, has pleaded guilty to terrorism and murder charges for carrying out the shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021.
His parents are charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors argued James and Jennifer Crumbley gave their son easy access to a gun and did not heed warning signs.
The ruling marks a rare case in the US where prosecutors aim to hold parents accountable for their child’s role in a mass shooting.
On 30 November 2021, Ethan Crumbley – who was 15 at the time – allegedly used his father’s semi-automatic handgun to kill four students and injure six students and a teacher in the small town of Oxford, Michigan.
In a written opinion on Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals said they had sufficient evidence that Jennifer and James Crumbley were aware of “uniquely troubling facts” that they could have acted on to prevent the deaths of the students.
The parents “were actively involved in [their son’s] mental state remaining untreated”, Judge Christopher Murray said. The parents also “provided him with the weapon he used to kill the victims” and “refused to remove him from the situation that led directly to the shootings”, Mr Murray alleged.
Prosecutors have claimed Mr and Ms Crumbley ignored their son’s depression and fascination with guns.
On the day of the shooting, school administrators had a meeting with James and Jennifer Crumbley after finding drawings their son had made that depicted guns and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop help me”. The school officials asked the parents to get their son counselling within 48 hours, which they agreed to, but they declined to take Ethan home, according to prosecutors. He returned to the classroom with a gun he had taken from an unlocked container at home that he hid in his backpack, prosecutors allege.
The BBC has reached out to the Crumbleys’ attorney for comment.
Ethan Crumbley faces up to life in prison without parole.
A 2019 US Department of Homeland Security Report found that in 76% of school firearm attacks, the shooter took the weapon from the home of a parent or another close relative. Yet there are few cases in which parents or relatives have faced charges for a child’s crime.
Karen McDonald, the Michigan prosecutor who filed charges against Mr and Ms Crumbley shortly after the shooting, told the New York Times in 2021 the decision to bring the charges represented “a brand-new way of approaching school shootings” that she hoped would help prevent killings.
Source : BBC