A manhunt has been launched for the parents of Oxford school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, even as their lawyers insisted they had not gone missing and intended to respond to manslaughter charges.
Officials confirmed that a fugitive warrant had been issued for James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the 15-year-old Michigan schoolboy accused of carrying out a shooting spree earlier this week. They had been due to give themselves up on Friday afternoon and had not done so, police said.
The warrant was issued shortly after prosectors said they were filing manslaughter charges against the couple for their alleged role in failing to stop the tragedy and for buying the teenager used to kill four people and injured seven.
The victims have been named as Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Hana St Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17.
On Friday, it was announced that prosecutors in Oxford, located 35 miles north of Detroit, had charged the pupil’s parents, with four counts involuntary manslaughter.
Officials said the parents had ignored warning signs and called some of their actions prior to the shooting “egregious”.
Media reports said the parents had agreed to hand themselves in to authorities on Friday, but that there had been no sign of them. As a result, police said they had issued a so-called “fugitive warrant” and were actively searching for the couple.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN police were searching for the Crumbleys after the couple’s attorney told his office that they have stopped responding to messages.
“If they think they’re going to get away, they’re not,” Mr Bouchard said. He said a “host” of detectives, as well as the FBI and the US Marshals Service, were looking for them.
In a statement asking the public to join in the search for the parents, said to be driving a black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV, the sheriff said: “The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”
But lawyers for the couple denied claims that they had fled.
In a statement sent to The Independent, attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman said: “On Thursday night we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned. Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges.”
They added: “The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.”
Ms Smith later said they were not aware of a 2pm deadline for the couple to give themselves up.
Earlier on Friday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald held a news conference to say the parents had been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Four days before the shooting, Ethan Crumbley accompanied his father to a local gun shop, where James Crumbley bought a semi-automatic handgun, prosecutors said.
Michigan law prohibits those under 18 years of age from buying or possessing firearms, except in limited circumstances such as hunting with a licence and a supervising adult.
Later that day, the teenager posted photos of the gun on social media, writing, “Just got my new beauty today” and adding a heart emoji. His mother wrote the next day that the two of them were “testing out his new Christmas present”, Ms McDonald said.
”These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send a message: that gun owners have a responsibility,“ Ms McDonald said.
On Friday evening, Oakland County undersheriff Michael McCabe said the couple were not in custody yet, though he said it was only a “matter of when”. It was reported that they had been due to arraigned at 4pm ET.
Earlier, court administrator Amy Luce said that if they were not in court by 4.30pm ET, there would be no arraignment on Friday.
Additional reporting by agencies
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