Sheriff Says Parents Of School Shooting Suspect Showing "No Remorse"

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The parents of the 15-year-old suspect in last week’s school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, are behind bars and under a suicide watch after being found Friday night in a Detroit warehouse, and the local sheriff describes the pair as being sullen and without remorse since they were taken into custody.

James and Jennifer Crumbley have appeared “sullen” in their separated sections of the Oakland County jail, Sheriff Michael Bouchard told MSNBC on Saturday.

“They’re not talking much to us,” Bouchard said. “We’ve not seen any remorse.”

The parents were apprehended Saturday hiding out in an art studio in Detroit. They were arrested for allegedly giving their son access to the newly bought 9mm handgun he used in his slay spree while also knowing there were deeply troubling warning signs about his behavior.

When I last wrote about the Crumbleys on Friday afternoon, I wondered, “Did the parents just not give a damn about their son’s behavior, or were they genuinely clueless until they got to school that morning?” It sure sounds like the pair weren’t clueless at all, though the school superintendent wrote in an open letter this weekend that the couple intentionally kept the school in the dark about whether or not their son had access to a gun.

The letter addresses the Nov. 30 meeting with counselors, saying “At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm. In addition, despite media reports, whether or not the gun was in his backpack has not been confirmed by law enforcement to our knowledge nor by our investigation at this time.”

According to the letter, the student’s parents never told the counselors about the gun purchase, and he was returned to class after his parents refused to take him home.

The letter also states the incidents remained at the guidance counselor level and never elevated to the principal or assistant principal.

Given the contents of the drawing that led to the meeting, the parents should have been thinking about the gun they just bought for their kid. Even if they didn’t think it was the guidance counselor’s business to know about their gun ownership, they themselves knew that their kid had access to at least one firearm at home. It sounds to me that they simply didn’t take the situation seriously. 

But did the school staff take it any more seriously? Doesn’t really sound like it. The superintendent says in his letter that none of the high school’s assistant principals or the principal were a part of the meeting or any discussion about the teen beforehand. The school’s resource officer wasn’t involved either, and never searched the suspect’s backpack or locker after his note had been discovered. 

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has said that the parents should have checked their son’s backpack himself, but based on their behavior since their son’s arrest, why would we think they would have told the counselor “Oh my God, his new gun is here!” Seems to me they likely would have declared the contents of the backpack to be gun-free, grabbed their kid, and gotten out of there as quickly as they could. Who knows what would have happened after that, but there’s a non-zero chance that he would have been back at school later that day after having killed his parents first. 

The Secret Service has looked at dozens of school shooting plots that have been carried out and thwarted, and they discovered that the vast majority of the time, the planner of the attack tells someone about what they’re doing before they carry it out. They tell a friend, or a family member, or post it online, but they provide enough evidence that if someone pays attention and acts on it, people don’t have to die. 

The one thing that we can all do that will save the most lives possible isn’t writing our congressman demanding universal background checks, which didn’t even apply here, or calling for a ban on 150-million or so legally-owned “large capacity” magazines. It’s simply to pay attention and to say something when we see something that causes us alarm. And while schools and law enforcement have their important roles to play, so do we as parents. I know of at least one instance where the Crumbleys and the school failed in their responsibilities, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to learn if there were more incidents that would have raised red flags for many of us, particularly as parents. 

If you’re a gun owner and your gut is telling you that something’s wrong with someone in your home, it doesn’t make you a Second Amendment sissy or a gun prohibitionist to make sure your firearms are secured or to even ask a buddy to take hold of your collection until the crisis has passed. In some states, there are even gun stores that will do that for you for a nominal fee or free of charge. I am 100% opposed to storage mandates, but the lack of a law doesn’t absolve us of our individual responsibilities as parents and gun owners, and based on all we know about the elder Crumbleys, they failed on both counts.