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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Richard Luscombe

Conviction of Michigan shooter’s mother shows ‘this has to stop’, say victims’ families

White man wearing glasses and plaid shirt rests face on his hands.
Craig Shilling, father of Justin Shilling, reacts after Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, on 6 February 2024, in Pontiac, Michigan. Photograph: Mandi Wright/AP

The father of one of four victims of Michigan’s Oxford high school shooting welcomed Tuesday’s conviction of the killer’s mother on involuntary manslaughter charges, and said it meant people could no longer “look the other way” over their own accountability for loved ones’ actions.

Craig Shilling, who lost his 17-year-old son Justin in the November 2021 shooting, spoke to reporters after a jury handed down guilty verdicts on Jennifer Crumbley, 45. Crumbley faces up to 15 years in prison on each count after she failed to inform authorities her son Ethan had access to firearms before opening fire, killing four students and wounding six people, including a teacher.

“It was a long time coming, but it’s definitely a step toward accountability,” Shilling said about the verdict’s implications for those who would seek to cover for family members who commit mass shootings.

“It’s kind of been our goal the whole time. It’s not really about winning or losing, it’s about making it apparent that this has to stop. I mean there’s no way to look the other way, and we have to address things on every level.”

Asked what he thought the verdict meant for parents and school officials, Shilling said: “Do your due diligence with your child, and you cannot choose to not take care of your child, you cannot choose to not nurture your child.

“You cannot choose to take your own interest over your child, especially when it comes to mental health and addressing concerns and problems.”

Crumbley’s conviction is the first time a school shooter’s parent has been convicted of homicide in connection with their child’s actions. It is been seen by many as a groundbreaking case.

Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Florida’s Palm Beach county, said the decision to prosecute Crumbley was courageous.

“Justice in the Jennifer Crumbley case! Congrats to Oakland county prosecutor Karen McDonald for her gutsy and righteous decision to hold the parents accountable for their egregious actions and inactions that culminated in the tragic deaths of four innocent victims,” he said in a tweet.

Rhonda Hart, Democratic congressional candidate whose 14-year-old daughter Kimberly was among 10 victims of the May 2018 Santa Fe high school shooting in Texas, also welcomed the verdict’s potential for future incidents.

“There is very little justice for victims of a school shooting, but this is a step in the right direction. I hope to see more of this, hold parents accountable when minors gain access to firearms,” she wrote in a tweet.

Her view was echoed by Fred Guttenberg, a gun control activist whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed with 16 others in the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.

“I hope that this is the beginning of holding adults accountable for the murder and American Carnage inflicted by their children,” he said.

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