The Families Of The Victims Of The 2017 Texas Church Shooting Have Reached A $144 Million Settlement

A judge said the Air Force was "60% responsible" for the mass shooting.

The families of the victims of the 2017 shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, have reached a tentative settlement with the US government of more than $144 million after a judge agreed that the US Air Force should have done more to prevent the shooter from buying guns.

The shooting, which was the deadliest in Texas history, at the rural First Baptist Church left 26 people dead and 22 more injured. More than 75 people sued the Department of Justice in 2018 year, alleging that if the Air Force had properly updated the FBI's background check system, the shooter wouldn't have been able to legally buy the gun that he used. 

“No words or amount of money can diminish the immense tragedy of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs,” Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general, said in a news release on Wednesday. “Today’s announcement brings the litigation to a close, ending a painful chapter for the victims of this unthinkable crime.”

In 2021, US District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled that the Air Force was "60% responsible" for the mass shooting. The Sutherland Springs shooter had served in the Air Force from 2010 to 2014, and in 2012 he was court-martialed for assaulting his spouse and their child. He then received a bad conduct discharge. Rodriguez said in 2021 that if the shooter's criminal history had been logged in the database, "it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting." The Air Force referred BuzzFeed News to the DOJ statement after a request for comment on Wednesday.

This is the highest payout for families of victims of a mass shooting. In 2022, the Justice Department paid $127 million to families of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting victims. The families alleged that the employees of the FBI tip line were negligent with tips regarding that shooter's growing collection of rifles and his desire to shoot up a school.

The lawyer for the Sutherland Springs victims' families did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday, but he told the New York Times that the families are "heroes."

“They have gone through so much pain and loss in the most horrific way," Jamal K. Alsaffar said. "But despite that, these families fought for justice, endured and won two trials against the federal government.”

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