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Parents of Michigan school shooting suspect charged with involuntary manslaughter

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today in Michigan, a prosecutor charged the parents of a teen who allegedly shot and killed four classmates earlier this week. The parents did not show up for their arraignment on manslaughter charges. Prosecutors claim they knew that their son had access to a weapon and that he was deeply troubled. Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET is covering this story.

Hi there.

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Police put out a be-on-the-lookout alert for the parents today. Explain what was going on.

KLINEFELTER: Well, they were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter each and were supposed to turn themselves into the authorities around 2 o'clock this afternoon for a 4 o'clock arraignment. But they did not show up. Law enforcement said they were searching for them, but then their attorney says they left town for their own safety after the shooting and are ready to turn themselves back in. Some law enforcement officials say they've been watching the parents. Others said that they did not have them under surveillance because it wasn't clear whether or not they would actually be charged with anything.

SHAPIRO: All right, so a lot of contradictory accounts there. How are prosecutors trying to link the parents to their son's actions this week?

KLINEFELTER: Well, police say that a 15-year-old methodically gunned down classmates at Oxford High School on Tuesday, killing four, injuring seven other people, including a teacher. He's charged with first-degree murder and terrorism, among other counts. But today, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald says it's the negligence of the teen's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, that enabled the horrific act. She says there were many missed opportunities to prevent the school shooting. She says Crumbley's parents bought their son the gun as a Christmas present only days before the shooting and then kept it unlocked in a bedroom drawer. She says they did nothing when school officials caught him looking up where to buy ammunition for it during class.

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KAREN MCDONALD: Thereafter, Jennifer Crumbley exchanged text messages about the incident with her son, stating, quote, "L-O-L, I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

SHAPIRO: There's also a note that the 15-year-old apparently wrote in class that has become part of this case. What was in it?

KLINEFELTER: Well, school officials found that the alleged shooter drawing an alarming note in class depicting a gun and a bullet with what appeared to be somebody shot, along with words like blood everywhere and help me and my life is useless. McDonald says school officials showed that note to James and Jennifer Crumbley, but they did not even check his school backpack to see if their son had brought the gun with him.

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MCDONALD: 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. And I think it's criminal. It is criminal.

KLINEFELTER: Michigan law does not require gun owners to keep weapons safely locked away from children, but there have been some times when an adult was prosecuted for a killing committed by a child. About two decades ago, a Michigan man was sentenced to prison after a 6-year-old shot a classmate with a gun casually kept in a shoe box.

SHAPIRO: What kind of message do you think the prosecutor is trying to send by charging not only the 15-year-old but also his parents?

KLINEFELTER: She's trying to send a message that this, she says, has to stop.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCDONALD: I am angry. I'm angry as a mother. I'm angry as the prosecutor. I'm angry as a person that lives in this county. I'm angry. There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.

SHAPIRO: Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET, thank you.

KLINEFELTER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.