The parents of a teenager accused of killing four students in a shooting at a US high school have been caught, several hours after a prosecutor filed involuntary manslaughter charges against them, according to a sheriff’s office.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were captured in a commercial building in Detroit that housed artwork, Detroit Police Chief James E White told a news conference.
He said the couple “were aided in getting into the building” and that a person who helped them may also face charges.
Mr White said the Crumbleys “appeared to be hiding” in the building where they were found, and appeared to be “distressed” and “very upset” when they were captured.
A vehicle tied to the couple had been located by a Detroit business owner late on Friday, and they were found a short time later. They are expected to be booked into Oakland County Jail.
A prosecutor had filed charges against the parents earlier on Friday, accusing them of failing to intervene on the day of the shooting in Michigan despite being confronted with a drawing and chilling message — “blood everywhere” — found at son Ethan Crumbley’s school desk.
The parents committed “egregious” acts, from buying a gun on Black Friday and making it available to Ethan Crumbley, to resisting his removal from school when they were summoned a few hours before the shooting, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
“I expect parents and everyone to have humanity and to step in and stop a potential tragedy,” she said. “The conclusion I draw is that there was absolute reason to believe this individual was dangerous and disturbed.”
Authorities said on Friday afternoon that they were looking for the couple. Sheriff Mike Bouchard said their lawyer Shannon Smith had agreed to arrange their arrest if charges were filed but had not been able to reach them.
Ms Smith said the Crumbleys were not on the run but had left town earlier in the week “for their own safety”.
“They are returning to the area to be arraigned,” she told the Associated Press.
On Friday night, US Marshals announced a reward of up to 10,000 dollars (£7,500) each for information leading to the Crumbleys’ arrest.
Mr McCabe said the business owner in Detroit spotted the Crumbleys’ vehicle and called 911. A woman seen nearby ran away when the citizen called authorities, the undersheriff said.
Earlier, the prosecutor offered the most precise account so far of events that led to the shooting, three days after four students were killed and others were wounded at Oxford High School, roughly 30 miles north of Detroit.
Ethan Crumbley, 15, emerged from a toilet with a gun, shooting students in the hallway, investigators said. He is charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes.
Under Michigan law, the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents can be pursued if authorities believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high chance of harm or death.
Parents in the US are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even though most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.
School officials became concerned about the teenager on Monday, a day before the shooting, when a teacher saw him searching for ammunition on his phone, Ms McDonald said.
Jennifer Crumbley was contacted and subsequently told her son in a text message: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” according to the prosecutor.
On Tuesday, a teacher found a note on the teenager’s desk and took a photo. It was a drawing of a gun pointing at the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me”, Ms McDonald said.
There also was a drawing of a bullet, she said, with words above it: “Blood everywhere.”
Between the gun and the bullet was a person who appeared to have been shot twice and was bleeding.
Crumbley also wrote “My life is useless” and “The world is dead”, according to the prosecutor.
The school quickly had a meeting with the teenager and his parents, who were told to get him into counselling within 48 hours, Ms McDonald said.
The Crumbleys failed to ask their son about the gun or check his backpack and “resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time”, she added. Instead, the teenager returned to class and the shooting subsequently occurred.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable — it’s criminal,” the prosecutor said.
Jennifer Crumbley texted her son after the shooting, saying “Ethan, don’t do it”, Ms McDonald said.
James Crumbley called 911 to say a gun was missing from their home and his son might be the gunman. The weapon had been kept in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom, according to Ms McDonald.
The teenager accompanied his father for the gun purchase on November 26 and posted photos of the firearm on social media, saying “Just got my new beauty today”, Ms McDonald said.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Jennifer Crumbley wrote on social media that it was a “mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present”, the prosecutor added.