The last thing any parent should have to endure is the death of a child. It is against the natural order of things and is the best argument there is against war—sending off our children to do old men’s work.
Just this past Tuesday, Ethan Crumbley, a fifteen-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, allegedly shot and killed four of his fellow students. He injured seven others and a teacher.
Ethan was arrested with the gun and three 15-round magazines. There were eleven rounds in the handgun’s magazine and another seven in his pocket. He was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder. He also faces one count of terrorism causing death, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and twelve counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
The prosecutor said the attack was “absolutely premeditated.”
Armed with a Sig Sauer semi-automatic 9mm pistol, he destroyed the lives of many families—families whose children were following the school district’s mission to create “lifelong inquirers who are caring, contributing members of a global society.”
Those families are faced with the unbearable tasks of burying their children, left to forever wonder about their kids’ unfulfilled dreams in a global society. And the community of Oxford (pop. 4,000) is left to grapple with a future forever scarred by violence.
The gun, which retails for around $570, was purchased by the young man’s father on Black Friday at a local gun store. It was an extravagant expense for a family that was struggling, by their own accounts, financially.
In a blog posting ostensibly intended for Donald Trump’s eyes, Jennifer Crumbley, a real estate agent wrote:
You see Mr. Trump I can go on and on, in fact I used to think Democrat. I don’t believe in God and [sic] Im quite opposite of your typical “republican”. But now I am 38 years old. I have a family. My husband and I both work full time jobs. I have watched our insurance premiums double. I cannot afford to buy into this Obamacare. For my family [sic] its over $600 a month with deductibles. We bust our ass Mr. Trump. I pay taxes, my husband pays his child support, I donate to charities. We are good fucking Americans that cannot get ahead. And what makes me sick, is people that come over here from other countries and get free everything.
My husband suffered a stroke and a broken back, and we were with just my income. Do you know how hard it is to support a family on only $40,000 a year? I couldn’t qualify for State Aid. I made [sic] to much.
Originally, James Crumbley said the gun was for his wife, who wrote, in that same blog, that she wanted to thank Trump for “allowing my right to bear arms. Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”
But the 9mm apparently wasn’t for Jennifer. It was an “early” Christmas present for Ethan.
Nothing quite captures the spirit of Christmas like a semi-automatic handgun.
Until last Tuesday, the story of Ethan and his parents seemed so normal as to be boring.
By all accounts, Ethan Crumbley was a sweet kid when he was younger. Bespectacled and nerdy, he expressed interests in archaeology and Minecraft. When he was in the fifth grade, he participated in a program where students presented solutions to real-life problems. Ethan’s group focused on poverty and hunger.
“I see people that are on the streets sometimes that are homeless and hungry, and so I feel like I should take action and help them,” he told reporters covering the exhibit.
By 15, Ethan had begun wearing all-black clothing and had stopped socializing with other students. Children of angry parents can become depressed, alienated, and feel marginalized from their peers, but in Ethan’s case nothing pointed at such an obvious cause—until the morning of the shooting.
This is the account in the Daily Beast:
By Monday…Ethan’s new present, which was kept in an unsecured drawer in his parents’ bedroom, was already causing concern at Oxford High School.
A teacher found Ethan searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to higher-ups. Administrators left a voicemail for Jennifer Crumbley and followed up with an email, but received no response.
“Lol, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” Jennifer texted her son.
According to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, on Tuesday Jennifer and James were called in to meet with a school counselor after a teacher saw disturbing drawings on Ethan’s desk.
On the morning of Nov. 30, the day of the shooting, she said, the suspect’s parents were urgently called into the high school after one of his teachers found an alarming note he had drawn, scrawled with images of a gun, a person who had been shot and a laughing emoji, and the words, “Blood everywhere,” and, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
The drawing also contained the lines “my life is useless” and “the world is dead.”
By the time the meeting took place, Ethan had altered the drawing to make it less disturbing, but his alarmed teacher had already taken a picture of the original version. Ethan’s parents did not inspect his backpack or ask him about the gun, according to the prosecutor.
McDonald also said the parents declined to take Ethan home after the meeting, which she said was a mistake, insisting he should not have been allowed to re-enter the classroom.
On Monday night, Ethan wrote in a journal about “his desire to shoot up the school to include murdering students,” Lt. Tim Willis of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office told the Court.
When news of the shooting broke, Jennifer texted her son again, saying, “Ethan, don’t do it.”
The parents of Ethan were charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. After their fleeing jurisdiction, they were apprehended in Detroit and taken into custody. Bail was set at $500,000 each.
It is anybody’s guess about what went wrong and when.
Were the parents derelict in their duties? Were they negligent gun owners? Were they irresponsible in offering guidance to their child?
Yes, is the probable answer in each instance. But it wasn’t always so.
She once blogged a plea on behalf of her son:
You see Mr. Trump, I need you to stop common core. My son struggles daily, and my teachers tell me they hate teaching it but [sic] the HAVE to. Their pay depends on these stupid fucking test scores. I have to pay for a Tutor, why? Because I can’t figure out 4th grade math. I used to be good at math. I can’t afford a Tutor, in fact I sacrifice car insurance to make sure my son gets a good education and hopefully succeeds in life…
Such needless sadness in these times of sadness. Lock up your guns. Pay attention to the kids. Watch for signs. Help them as if their lives depend on it—because they do.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Curried Chicken Salad with Grapes
This makes a delightful lunch entree, served atop leaves of Bibb lettuce and a crusty baguette. A Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect wine accompaniment.
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 to 3 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
Small can of pineapple chunks (optional)
3 Tbs. slivered almonds, toasted (optional)
In large bowl, stir dressing ingredients until well mixed.
Fold in chicken, celery, grapes and, if using, pineapple chunks. Sprinkle with almonds, if using.