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Official found it 'strange' that Michigan school shooter's mom didn't take him home over drawing

A Michigan school official told jurors Tuesday that he felt he had no grounds to search a teen's backpack before the boy fatally shot four fellow students, even though staff met with the teen's parents that morning to discuss a violent drawing he had scrawled on a math assignment.

Nick Ejak, who was in charge of discipline at Oxford High School, said he was concerned about Ethan Crumbley's mental health but did not consider him to be a threat to others on Nov. 30, 2021.

After the meeting about the drawing, the teen's parents declined to take their son home. A few hours later, he pulled a 9mm gun from his backpack and shot 11 people inside the school.

Jennifer Crumbley, 45, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say she and her husband were grossly negligent and could have prevented the four deaths if they had tended to their son’s mental health. They’re also accused of making a gun accessible at home.

Much of Ejak's testimony focused on the meeting that morning, which included him, the parents, the boy and a counselor. The school requested the meeting after a teacher found the drawing, which depicted a gun and a bullet and the lines, “The thoughts won't stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.”

Ejak said he didn't have reasonable suspicion to search the teen's backpack, such as nervous behavior or allegations of vaping or possessing a weapon.

"None of that was present," he told the jury, adding that the drawing also didn't violate the school's conduct code.

Ejak said he found it “odd” and “strange” that Jennifer and James Crumbley declined to immediately take their son home.

“My concern was he gets the help he needs,” Ejak said.

Jennifer Crumbley worked in marketing for a real estate company. Her boss, Andrew Smith, testified that the business was “very family friendly, family first,” an apparent attempt by prosecutors to show that she didn't need to rush back to work after the morning meeting at the school.

Smith said Jennifer Crumbley dashed out of the office when news of the shooting broke. She sent him text messages declaring that her son “must be the shooter. ... I need my job. Please don’t judge me for what my son did.”

“I was a little taken aback,” Smith said. “I was surprised she was worried about work.”

The jury saw police photos of the Crumbley home taken on the day of the shooting. Ethan's bedroom was messy, with paper targets from a shooting range displayed on a wall. The small safe that held the Sig Sauer handgun was open and empty on his parents' bed.

Ejak, the high school dean, said the parents didn't disclose that James Crumbley had purchased a gun as a gift for Ethan just four days earlier. Ejak also didn't know about the teen's hallucinations earlier in 2021.

“It would have completely changed the process that we followed. ... As an expert of their child, I heavily rely on the parents for information,” he said.

Near the end of the day, prosecutors played a video of Jennifer Crumbley sitting in a police car after the shooting. She sobbed at times, expressed disbelief about her son — he “ruined his life” — and asked for cigarettes.

“I don't get what happened,” she said.

James Crumbley, 47, will stand trial in March. The couple are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child. Ethan, now 17, is serving a life sentence.

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