Air Force ordered to pay $230 million to victims of 2017 church shooting

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A federal judge on Monday ordered the US Air Force to pay more than $230 million to survivors and families of victims of a 2017 Texas church shooting because the Air Force failed to report the victims. shooter’s criminal history.

In his decision, Judge Xavier Rodriguez of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas wrote that the Air Force could have prevented the shooter, Devin P. Kelley, who had served on an Army base in the air in New Mexico, to buy the rifle. he used to kill 26 people on November 5, 2017 at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

For its failure to report Mr. Kelley’s 2012 conviction for domestic assault, the Air Force must pay victims damages for their ‘pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, impairment and loss of companionship’ , wrote the judge. He added that the case was “unprecedented in its nature and scope”.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the families of the victims.

“Ultimately, there is no satisfactory way to determine the value of these families’ pain,” the judge wrote.

In July, Judge Rodriguez ruled that the Air Force was “60% responsible” for the massacre.

Under federal law, Mr. Kelley should not have been allowed to buy the military-style rifle or the three other weapons he had acquired before the shooting. He bought the guns after being convicted of domestic assault on his wife and son-in-law, whose skulls he admitted to cracking.

Mr Kelley received a discharge for “misconduct” from the Air Force in 2014 after nearly five years of service.

After the shooting, the Air Force admitted its mistake, saying it should have reported Mr. Kelley’s conviction to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A conviction should have prevented him from buying weapons.

The Air Force also said after the shooting that it was investigating whether other convictions had been improperly left unreported to a federal firearms background check database.

Jamal Alsaffar, one of the lawyers representing the victims, said Monday night that the families were relieved by the decision.

“The judge’s acknowledgment that there must be some accountability for the violence is really important to them,” said Mr. Alsaffar, attorney for National Trial Law, a law firm in Austin.

When asked Monday night if the Air Force would appeal the case, Ann Stefanek, spokeswoman for the services branch, said, “We are aware of the court’s decision and are reviewing the judge’s decision.”

On November 15, 2017, Mr Kelley walked into a Sunday service at a small Baptist church and shot parishioners who were worshiping in the pews. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72, and among the dead were a pregnant woman and the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

A neighbor shot Mr Kelley twice as he was leaving the church. Mr. Kelley jumped into his car and led the neighbor and another man into a car chase. The shooter crashed his car and was found dead behind the wheel, where officials say he shot himself in the head.

In his 185-page ruling, Judge Rodriguez listed the damage the shooting caused to each victim and some of their family members, totaling about 80 people. The highest single prize was $7 million.

John Porter Holcombe, who survived the shooting but whose wife, stepchildren and parents were killed, was awarded more than $4.6 million. His wife’s estate received $7 million.

“He did not forget the sight of his murdered wife surrounded by their dead children,” Judge Rodriguez wrote.

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