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6 Apr, 2023 04:42

US to pay $145 million settlement for official ‘negligence’

Preventive action could have stopped a 2017 mass shooting by an ex-government employee, plaintiffs allege
US to pay $145 million settlement for official ‘negligence’

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has agreed to shell out $144.5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming the government failed to share background information about a former Air Force serviceman who later killed 26 people in a shooting spree.

The DOJ announced the multi-million dollar settlement on Wednesday, saying it had reached an “agreement in principle” to end a civil case which arose from the November 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas by Air Force vet Devin Patrick Kelley. 

“No words or amount of money can diminish the immense tragedy of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs,” Associate US Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “Today’s announcement brings the litigation to a close, ending a painful chapter for the victims of this unthinkable crime.”

More than 75 plaintiffs joined the lawsuit, which alleged that the US Air Force could have prevented the rampage, had it transmitted the gunman’s criminal history into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The DOJ acknowledged that Kelley would have been unable to purchase guns from a federally licensed dealer if his name had been in the system, after a federal judge ruled that the government was “liable for damages caused by the shooting.”

Although some aspects of the pay-out must be approved in court, officials said the $144.5 million would “settle all claims” related to the case. The DOJ previously attempted to appeal the liability ruling, but at the time noted that the parties in the case were working toward a resolution out of court.

While still in the Air Force, Kelley faced a court martial in 2012 for domestic violence charges and was prohibited from buying or possessing firearms. The military did not record the conviction with the FBI-run NICS database, allowing Kelley to buy weapons freely.

After murdering 26 worshippers and wounding 22 others at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Kelley was confronted by a local resident armed with a rifle and ultimately fled the scene. Police later found the gunman dead in his car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Among his victims were an unborn child, the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter and the shooter’s own grandmother-in-law.