A Michigan prosecutor will hold a news conference on Friday to discuss whether or not to charge the parents of the 15-year-old accused of fatally shooting four students at a suburban Detroit high school.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald has stated that she is considering charging the suspect’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, with a crime, describing their actions as “far beyond negligence.”
Ethan Crumbley, a sophomore at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, is accused of “methodically and deliberately” killing four classmates and injuring several others on Tuesday. As an adult, he has been charged with murder, terrorism, and other offenses.
“The parents were the only people who knew about the access to weapons,” McDonald said on Thursday. “The gun appears to have been freely available to that individual,” according to the prosecutor.
In another interview this week, McDonald stated that additional unreleased evidence in the case was “troubling” and “disturbing.”
According to Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, the suspect was flagged twice by school personnel for “concerning behavior,” the first the day before the shooting and the second just hours before. The suspect’s parents were brought to the school around 10 a.m. the day of the shooting for a meeting with the student and school personnel, according to Bouchard.
Copycat threats were circulated on social media, and school districts canceled classes on Thursday to ensure the safety of their students.
A 17-year-old student in Southfield, about 30 miles from Oxford High School, was arrested with a semi-automatic pistol on Thursday. A bomb threat was also made at South Lake High School in Oxford, about 45 miles away, prompting a police investigation.
“If you’re making threats, we’ll find you,” Bouchard said at a news conference called specifically to address the estimated hundreds of copycat threats reported. “It’s absurd that you’re inciting the fears and passions of parents, teachers, and the community in the midst of a true tragedy.”
Threats are also being investigated by the FBI and the Secret Service.
False terrorism threats could result in charges of false terrorism threat, a 20-year felony, and misdemeanor malicious use of a telephone, according to McDonald.
Meanwhile, parents must tread a fine line between ensuring their children’s safety and compromising their children’s mental and emotional health.
The confusion of what’s real and what’s not was the scariest part for David Roden, a 14-year-old freshman at Northville High School, which remained open Thursday. Fake social media accounts purporting to be the 15-year-old charged in the Oxford High School shooting began appearing even before his name was released by law enforcement, with some threatening additional shootings and plotting vengeance.
While direct threats may result in criminal charges, the spread of false information via deceptive accounts is a common problem in the aftermath of mass shootings, is often not illegal, and sometimes does not violate the terms of service of social media platforms.
According to Cliff Lampe, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, it is unlikely that any social media accounts that chronicled Crumbley’s alleged criminal activity are still active on these platforms.
In active threat situations, alleged perpetrators’ social media accounts are removed through an opaque process, according to Lampe. Platforms are notified by either their own algorithms or by law enforcement. The tendency of social media platforms to make some user accounts “disappear in the night” can help feed the creation of these fake accounts, Lampe said. However, the common practice of setting up “sock puppets” online would happen regardless, he said.