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US reaches $144.5 million settlement with Texas church shooting victims

2023-04-05T14:57:37Z

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice reached a $144.5 million settlement with survivors and families of victims of the 2017 mass shooting at a Texas church that killed 26 people, for which a judge had found the Air Force primarily responsible.

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FILE PHOTO: Flowers decorate the fence around the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs where 26 people were killed a week earlier on Nov. 5, 2017, as the church opens to the public as a memorial to those killed, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

Wednesday’s settlement with more than 75 plaintiffs requires approval by U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio.

It would end the government’s appeal of Rodriguez’s order that it pay approximately $230 million over the Nov. 5, 2017 massacre by former Air Force airman Devin Patrick Kelley at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Twenty-two others were injured when Kelley, 26, dressed in black and wearing a skull mask, opened fire at a Sunday service, 31 miles (50 km) east of San Antonio.

He died later of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head after a police chase.

Kelley had used firearms he should not have been allowed to buy, after admitting in a 2012 court martial to domestic violence for striking his former wife and infant stepson.

In July 2021, Rodriguez found the Air Force 60% responsible, over its failure to enter Kelley’s plea in a database used for background checks prior to firearms purchases.

Though finding Kelley 40% responsible, Rodriguez said not even Kelley’s parents knew as much as the government about their son’s capacity for violence.

Damages were imposed in February 2022. The Washington Post reported the settlement earlier.

In 2021, the government reached respective settlements of $88 million and $127.5 million with victims of mass shootings at a Charleston, South Carolina church and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, over alleged errors that might have averted those attacks.

“No words or amount of money can diminish the immense tragedy of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs,” Associate 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.”

A lawyer for the plaintiffs had no immediate comment.

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