Oxford High School officials had the legal right to search shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley’s backpack and locker before he opened fire on classmates but failed to do so, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald has said.
“We don’t know exactly if that weapon was in his bag, where it was, we just know it was in the school and he had access to it,” she told CNN on Monday.
“We haven’t ruled out charging anyone,” she added when asked if charges are being considered are being considered against the school in Michigan.
The prosecutor said the shooting could have been prevented and that the suspect’s parents are also facing charges because “we have to start addressing how somebody like [Mr Crumbley] can so easily get their hands on a weapon and we have to hold the people responsible who allowed that to happen”.
“I’m sympathetic to parents, my husband and I have raised five children,” Ms McDonald said. “I’m certainly not suggesting that parents should be criminally prosecuted for any bad act of a child. 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.”
Mr Crumbley, 15, stands accused of killing four students and wounding another six students and one teacher at Oxford High School on 30 November. He has been charged as an adult on 24 counts, including terrorism causing death, first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The parents of the suspect, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. The entire family has pleaded not guilty.
The parents met with school officials on the day of the shooting after some of Mr Crumbley’s behaviour caused two teachers to raise alarm. Prosecutors believe he had the gun in his backpack throughout the day - including during the meeting. However, he was allowed to return to class afterward because he had no prior violations, and opened fire three hours later.
“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,” Ms McDonald told CNN.
All three family members are being held at the Oakland County Jail facility in Pontiac, with staff checking on them “multiple times an hour”, according to Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
The sheriff added on a press conference on Saturday that they cannot communicate with each other and that he didn’t think Mr Crumbley had been made aware of the arrests of his parents.
“He wouldn’t have been made aware that we were searching for his parents since he’s in isolation, and it’s not like we have a TV clicker in his hands,” Mr Bouchard said.
He said none of them had spoken to any staff member and he added that there had been “nothing to lead us to believe that anybody has any mental health challenges so far based on records or information we’ve uncovered”.
The Independent has reached out to Oxford High School for comment.