The teen accused of carrying out a deadly shooting at his Michigan high school allegedly had the gun in his backpack during a meeting with administrators and his parents just three hours before the attack.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Thursday said investigators believe Mr Crumbley had the gun in his backpack when he arrived at school that morning.
Ms McDonald said the teen was believed to have brought the backpack with the gun into a meeting with school officials and his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley.
The meeting was called after a teacher reported “behaviour they felt was concerning” from Mr Crumbley. A different teacher had raised nearly identical concerns the day before, after which Mr Crumbley received “counselling” from school officials, who left a call with his parents.
Details about the behaviour that prompted the concerns remain unclear, but they were serious enough for Ms McDonald to question why Mr Crumbley was allowed to return to class after Tuesday’s meeting.
“The event that caused the teacher concern and that had the school officials bring parents to school was – it’s hard to look at that, what was produced at that meeting, and everybody looked at, it’s very hard to look at that and say that there was no concern,” Ms McDonald told CNN on Thursday.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald says it is a "very strong possibility" that the suspect in the Michigan high school shooting was carrying the weapon during his meeting with his parents school officials earlier in the day. pic.twitter.com/0hq6ScXOZN
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) December 3, 2021
Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard also appeared to criticise the school for not alerting his office about what was allegedly unfolding in the classroom ahead of the shooting. “In light of where we are today, certainly we would have liked to have been part of that discussion and information,” he said Thursday.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne has said officials determined “discipline was not warranted” after the meeting.
Three hours after he returned to class, surveillance video purportedly showed Mr Crumbley emerging from a bathroom with the 9mm Sig Sauer SP2022 semi-automatic handgun and opening fire indiscriminately in the hallway.
Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast described the footage at Mr Crumbley’s arraignment on Wednesday and said the suspect fired shots “methodically”.
“What’s depicted on that video, honestly, judge, I don’t have the words to describe how horrific that was,” Mr Keast said.
“He deliberately aimed the gun at students and began firing at students. After students started running he continued down the hallway pointing the gun and firing [at them] and firing in classrooms and at students who were unable to escape.”
Officers from more than 60 law enforcement agencies in the area responded to the scene and took Mr Crumbley into custody within five minutes of the first shots.
In those five minutes, Mr Crumbley fired at least 30 rounds, police said. There were still 18 rounds in his gun when he surrendered.
Three students – Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Hana St Juliana, 14 – were pronounced dead at the scene and a fourth, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, died in hospital the next day. A further six students and one teacher were injured.
Lt Tim Willis of the Oakland County Sheriff’s office said investigators found two videos on Mr Crumbley’s cell phone in which he talked about shooting and killing students at the high school.
They also found a journal in his backpack which described his “desire to shoot up the school to include murdering students”, Mr Willis said.
Mr Crumbley’s Instagram page reportedly featured a photo of the handgun he used in the shooting, with the caption: “Just got my new beauty today.”
On Monday night, he allegedly posted an apparent countdown warning on Instagram: “Now I become death – destroyer of worlds – see you tomorrow Oxford.”
Ms McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, highlighted another “disturbing” and “troubling” piece of evidence at a press conference on Wednesday, but said she could not yet disclose what it was.
She said investigators are still sifting through evidence but have thus far have zero doubt that the attack was premeditated. “I am absolutely sure after reviewing the evidence that it isn’t even a close call, it was absolutely premeditated,” she said.
Ms McDonald has said she expects her office will make a decision on whether to press charges against Mr Crumbley’s parents on Friday.
Authorities have not said if they believe the parents knew their son had taken the handgun on the day of the shooting, but Ms McDonald said it appeared to have been “freely available” to him.
Under Michigan law, the parents of a child who violates firearm-related statutes on school property or in a school vehicle can be held criminally liable if the parent knew the child’s intentions or furthered their actions.
As for whether charges will be filed against the parents, Ms McDonald said on Wednesday: “We know that owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate and not allowing access to other individuals, particularly minors.
“We know that and we have to hold individuals accountable who don’t do that.”
Administrators at the school have also faced scrutiny over their handling of concerns about Mr Crumbley’s behaviour, as well as their response to rumours of violence on campus.
Speaking to reporters soon after the shooting, Mr Throne, the superintendent, insisted the school had no prior knowledge of the attack.
As panicked parents rushed to locate their children in the chaos after the shooting, one mother claimed that her son had expressed serious concern about trouble brewing on the campus hours earlier.
Robin Redding told the Associated Press her son Treshan Bryant, a 12th grader at the school, opted to stay home on Tuesday because he and his younger cousins had a “bad feeling” that violence could be coming.
Mr Bryant told the outlet he had heard vague threats about plans for a shooting “for a long time now”.
“You’re not supposed to play about that,” he said. “This is real life.”
While investigators have yet to determine a motive for the shooting, Ms Redding said: “This couldn’t be just random.”