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Authorities are searching for the parents of a teenager accused of killing four people in a Michigan high school shooting this week, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday.
The news came shortly after Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced that James and Jennifer Crumbley had been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on Nov. 30, and it’s my intent to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said at a news conference.
She added, “Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility.”
An attorney for the parents had contacted authorities Friday morning to say that James and Jennifer Crumbley would turn themselves in if they were charged, sheriff Michael Bouchard said.
On Friday afternoon after officials said they were searching for the pair, their lawyers said the couple had not fled but had left town the night after the shooting “for their own safety” and were in the process of returning for arraignment.
“They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports,” lawyers Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman said in a statement.
The attorneys’ statement regarding the Crumbleys’ return was first reported by the Detroit News.
The sheriff’s office said it had not heard from lawyers late Friday afternoon and said that the duo’s voluntary return was not assured.
Earlier in the day Bouchard described resources on the case.
“We have our Fugitive Apprehension Team, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service and others actively looking for them and have every expectation we’ll have them in custody soon,” Bouchard said. “The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”
The couple may be driving a black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV with a Michigan license plate number, authorities said.
Bouchard said that his department was not given a heads-up from the prosecutor that the charges would be filed against the parents.
“We were informed, actually, by the media that a charging decision had been made,” he told MSNBC.
When asked if that was frustrating, the sheriff responded: “That’s an understatement.”
James Crumbley purchased the weapon days before the shooting, according to the sheriff. McDonald said that James Crumbley brought the suspect, Ethan Crumbley, with him to the store.
Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation in which harm or death was high. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison.
Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, in the shooting Tuesday at Oxford High School in Oakland County, roughly 30 miles north of Detroit.
During Friday’s news conference, the top prosecutor in Oakland County said that a teacher had observed Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his cellphone and alerted school officials. The school tried to contact his mother but could not reach her.
McDonald told reporters that Jennifer Crumbley did not contact the school but instead texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
On Tuesday, prior to the shooting, another teacher alerted school officials to a drawing found on Ethan Crumbley’s desk. It contained a drawing of a gun pointing at the words “the thoughts won’t stop, help me,” the prosecutor said.
There was also a drawing of a bullet with the words “blood everywhere” above it and a drawing of a person who appeared to have been shot twice and was bleeding. McDonald said the drawing of the person included a laughing emoji and the phrases “my life is useless” and “the world is dead.”
After the teacher found the drawing, Ethan Crumbley was removed from class and his parents were asked to come to the school immediately. A counselor showed the parents the drawing but Ethan Crumbley had already altered it and scratched out some of the images and words, according to McDonald.
The parents were told they needed to get Ethan Crumbley into counseling within 48 hours, McDonald said.
“James and Jennifer Crumbley resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time,” she said. “Instead, James and Jennifer Crumbley left the high school without their son. He was returned to the high school.”
The prosecutor said the teen should not have been allowed to return to the classroom.
The shooting happened just before 1 p.m. McDonald said that after news broke that there was an active shooter at the high school, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son at 1:22 p.m., “Ethan, don’t do it.”
Around 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley realized the gun — which was kept in an unlocked drawer in their bedroom — was missing and called police to say that he thought his son might be the shooter, according to McDonald.
The Crumbleys have not cooperated with authorities, nor have they given their son permission to talk with investigators, as is required for minors in Michigan, the county sheriff said.
A message left on a phone number listed under James Crumbley’s name was not returned. A lawyer who represented Ethan Crumbley at his arraignment, Scott Kozak, did not respond to a request for comment.
Authorities have identified the four students who were killed as Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17. Seven other people, including a teacher, were seriously wounded.
A motive in Tuesday’s shooting remains unclear, though authorities have said they found a video on Ethan Crumbley’s phone that he appeared to have made the night before the shooting in which he discussed killing students.
In a video message published Thursday, Tim Throne, leader of Oxford Community Schools, addressed the suspect being called to the office prior to the shooting but said “no discipline was warranted.”
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.
Minyvonne Burke is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
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