Police in the U.S. Midwestern state of Michigan say they are searching for the parents of a teenager charged with four counts of first-degree murder in a shooting Tuesday at his high school. A prosecutor filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents Friday in connection with the deaths.
Police say they have issued a fugitive warrant for the couple, Jennifer and James Crumbley, who have been charged with four counts of manslaughter for ignoring warning signs ahead of the school shooting and giving their son access to a gun.
The couple’s lawyer, Shannon Smith, told authorities they had left town earlier in the week for their own safety, according to the Associated Press.
“They are returning to the area to be arraigned,” Smith told The Associated Press.
Karen McDonald, the chief prosecutor in Oakland County, Michigan, said the Crumbleys’ actions prior to the killings went “far beyond negligence.”
The Crumbleys were charged three days after their 15-year-old son Ethan allegedly opened fire at Oxford High School in the town of Oxford, Michigan, killing four students and wounding seven other people.
Prosecutors said Ethan Crumbley had displayed several warnings signs before the school shooting, including drawing a picture of a handgun and a bleeding figure with the words “Blood everywhere” and “The thoughts won’t stop — help me” written on the sheet.
They also said a teacher had seen Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his phone and alerted school officials.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were summoned to the school a few hours before the shooting but “resisted” the idea of taking their son home from school, according to McDonald.
Parents in the U.S. are seldom charged in school shootings involving their children, experts say. If convicted, the Crumbleys could face up to 15 years in prison.
Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including first-degree murder and terrorism, for allegedly killing the students with a semi-automatic gun that investigators said Crumbley’s father had bought legally last week.
Michigan law does not require gun owners to keep weapons locked away from children, but McDonald said that is no excuse.
“All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” she in an interview with WJR-AM radio in Detroit, Michigan.
Tuesday’s attack was the deadliest shooting in a U.S. school this year, according to Education Week. It was also the latest in a series of mass shootings at U.S. schools that spans decades.
Information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.