Would’ve, could’ves to avert shooting

The father of a school shooter is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. He is accused of failing to secure a gun at home and ignoring signs of his son's mental distress.

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National News

March 11, 2024 - 2:14 PM

James Crumbley, father of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, at his trial on four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of four Oxford High School students who were shot and killed by his son. Crumbley’s wife Jennifer Crumbley was convicted on the same four counts at her trial last month. Photo by (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images/TNS)

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The parents of a Michigan school shooter declined to take their son home hours before the attack, leaving instead with a list of mental health providers after being presented with his violent drawing and disturbing messages, a counselor testified Monday.

A security camera image of James Crumbley with papers in his hand at Oxford High School was displayed for the jury.

“My hope was that they were going to take him,” Shawn Hopkins testified, “either take him to get help or even just, ‘Let’s have a good day. Let’s have a day where we just spend time with you.’”

“I didn’t want him left alone,” the counselor added.

James Crumbley, 47, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. He is accused of failing to secure a gun at home and ignoring signs of Ethan Crumbley’s mental distress.

No one opened the 15-year-old’s backpack, and he later pulled out the handgun and shot up the school, killing four students and wounding more on Nov. 30, 2021.

On the trial’s third day, prosecutors focused on the morning of the shooting.

The Crumbleys had met with staff who gave them a drawing on Ethan’s math assignment showing a gun, blood, and a wounded person, along with anguished phrases: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. My life is useless.”

Hopkins said he arranged for the Crumbleys to come to the school and met with Ethan before they arrived, trying to understand his mindset. The boy told him: “I can see why this looks bad. I’m not going to do” anything.

“I wanted him to get help as soon as possible, today if possible,” Hopkins said. “I was told it wasn’t possible.”

Hopkins testified that he told the parents that he “wanted movement within 48 hours,” and thought to himself that he would call Michigan’s child welfare agency if they didn’t take action.

Just a day earlier, Jennifer Crumbley had been called when a teacher saw Ethan looking up bullets on his phone, the counselor said.

Hopkins said Ethan wanted to stay in school. The counselor believed it was a better place for him, especially if he might be alone even if the Crumbleys took him home but left for work.

“I made the decision I made based on the information I had. I had 90 minutes of information,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said James Crumbley never objected when his wife said they couldn’t take Ethan home. And he said no one disclosed that a new gun had been purchased just four days earlier — one described by Ethan on social media as “my beauty.”

Hopkins said the father seemed interested in his son’s welfare when they discussed the drawing.

“He was talking to his son and mentioned, ‘You have people you can talk to. You can talk to your counselor, you have your journal. We talk,’” Hopkins recalled. “It felt appropriate at that time, but my concern at that point was there wasn’t any action.”

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