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Sutherland Springs lawsuit alleges military negligence led to massacre

A man walks past the front of the First Baptist Church where a gunman opened fire on a Sunday service and killed at least 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 6, 2017.

NICK WAGNER/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN/TNS

By KELSEY BRADSHAW | Austin American-Statesman | Published: July 12, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas (Tribune News Service) — A woman who was shot four times during the Sutherland Springs church shooting last year is suing the U.S. government, claiming it failed to prevent the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history.

Margarette Vidal and her children, Monica Shabbir, Robert Vidal, and Ramiro Vidal Jr., filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday seeking damages from the government for physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, health care expenses, physical impairment and disfigurement, and loss of income, according to the suit.

Authorities say Devin Kelley shot and killed 26 people during Sunday services inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio, on Nov. 5. Vidal was one of 20 people injured.

The family alleges in its lawsuit that the U.S. government was negligent and could have kept Kelley from possessing guns if it had properly managed his military records.

Kelley was convicted of domestic violence in 2012 while in the U.S. Air Force, but officials failed to report the conviction to the FBI background check system, as they are required to do.

Had the Air Force reported the conviction, Kelley would not have been able to purchase a firearm.

The Air Force admitted its mistake after the shooting in November.

“The government’s acts or omissions directly and proximately resulted in Devin Kelley’s purchase of the firearms used in the Nov. 5, 2017, Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting,” the lawsuit states.

The family’s attorney, Jamal Alsaffar, said the government had six months to respond to a notice of claim requesting it take responsibility for failing to report Kelley’s conviction, but didn’t.

“Despite acknowledging that it failed to protect this community and many others, the government did nothing the past six months to try to right the wrong. So the family had to file a federal lawsuit to ensure that the government is held accountable for its negligence and to make this and other communities safer,” Alsaffar said.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against government agencies since the shooting.

The Holcombe family, which lost nine of its members in the shooting, sued the U.S. government in June after the Air Force failed to report Kelley to the background check system.

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Devin Patrick Kelley.
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY

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