The families of most of those killed and wounded in the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018 have reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the US government over the FBI’s failure to stop the gunman, even though it was told he intended to attack.
Attorneys for families of 16 of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and some of those wounded said they had reached a settlement over the failure to investigate a tip a month before the massacre. The 17th family chose not to sue.
About five weeks before the 14 February shooting, an FBI tip line received a call saying a former Stoneman Douglas student, Nikolas Cruz, had bought guns and planned to “slip into a school and start shooting the place up”.
“I know he’s going to explode,” the caller told the FBI.
But that information was never forwarded to the FBI’s Miami office and Cruz was never contacted. He had been expelled a year earlier and had a long history of emotional and behavioral problems.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty last month to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 further counts of attempted murder for each of those wounded. He will receive either a death sentence or life in prison after a trial scheduled to start in January.
The plea hearing came in the same week the Broward school district agreed to a $25m settlement with the families of those killed, 16 of the injured and more than a dozen others who were traumatized.
Lori Alhadeff and Debra Hixon, two school board members who lost relatives, and who were elected after the shooting, were not involved in negotiations.
One of the most severely injured, former student Anthony Borges, was not included in the settlement and is pursuing his own legal action.
On Monday, attorneys said details of the settlement with the federal government were confidential. A source familiar with the deal told the Associated Press the government would pay $127.5m.
“It has been an honor to represent the Parkland families who, through their immeasurable grief, have devoted themselves to making the world a safer place,” the lead attorney, Kristina Infante, said in a statement.
“Although no resolution could ever restore what the Parkland families lost, this settlement marks an important step toward justice.”
Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the shooting, commended the FBI for accepting responsibility, comparing it to the Broward county school district and sheriff’s office, school security staff and psychologists who treated the shooter. He believes they all have ducked responsibility.
“The FBI has made changes to make sure this never happens again,” Pollack said.
Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina was killed, said no settlement will “replace my bright, bubbly and beautiful daughter”. While other families celebrate Thanksgiving this week, he said, Gina’s chair will be empty.
Montalto and Pollack said any money will not replace their daughters.
Paul David Stern, lead attorney for the government, did not immediately comment.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )