MIAMI – The Justice Department will pay around $ 130 million to 40 survivors and families of victims of the 2018 Parkland, Florida high school massacre for the FBI’s failure to properly investigate two boards in the months leading up to the shooting suggesting the shooter. could open fire on a school.
One of the tips, six weeks before the shooting, explained how shooter Nikolas Cruz was posting on Instagram about the build-up of weapons and ammunition. “I know it’s going to explode,” the woman said on the FBI phone line, adding that she feared Mr. Cruz, then 19, “would slip into a school and start shooting.” .
Forty days later, that is exactly what Mr Cruz did, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had previously been a student.
The FBI admitted, two days after the February 14, 2018 shooting, that it received the information about Mr. Cruz but did not investigate it according to its protocols. Mr Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder last month. He is expected to be tried early next year. A jury will decide whether he faces capital punishment or life imprisonment.
“While the financial details of the deal are currently under wraps, it is a historic settlement and the culmination of the Parkland families’ long and arduous efforts for truth and accountability,” said the law firm representing the families, Podhurst Orseck, in a statement.
The Justice Department said in court documents that it was in the process of reaching a settlement, without disclosing the amount. Two people familiar with the deal said it would total around $ 130 million, although the precise number may change before the final deal.
The revelation that the FBI had received information about the gunman before the shooting devastated the families of the victims and the Parkland community in the days immediately following the shooting. Fred Guttenberg was in the process of choosing a coffin for his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, two days after the shooting when he received an urgent call from an FBI agent working with the families. The agent delivered the difficult news.
“Are you telling me that if the FBI didn’t make a mistake and did their job a month earlier, my daughter would still be alive today?” Mr. Guttenberg asked the officer, according to the lawsuit that Mr. Guttenberg and the 39 other families ultimately filed against the office.
“I’m afraid so, sir,” replied the agent, according to Mr. Guttenberg.
The first piece of advice came five months before the shooting, in September 2017, when a Mississippi surety reported that a commentator with the username “nikolas cruz” left a disturbing message on his YouTube channel: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter. “Two FBI agents questioned the serf about the comment, but found no specific information linking him to a specific person and closed the investigation the following month.
The second advice came on January 5, 2018, from a woman who called the FBI advice line and gave the office information about Mr. Cruz’s social media accounts and troubled family life and school record. . She mentioned that he posted pictures of mutilated animals and that his mother had recently passed away – both seen by experts as warning signs or triggers for would-be shooters.
“I believe something is going to happen,” said the woman, who identified herself as a friend of the family.
Mr Guttenberg and his wife, Jennifer Guttenberg, sued the FBI for negligence in November 2018 and were eventually joined by 39 other families. They argued that the shooting was “completely preventable”.
The case was due to be tried in January 2022. In its court file Monday, the Justice Department asked the court to suspend all upcoming hearings and deadlines pending the completion of the settlement.
“Once these details are finalized and approval granted, the plaintiffs will ask the court to dismiss these actions in their entirety,” said the Justice Ministry’s file.
The Department of Justice made no further comment.
Last month, the families of the victims reached a $ 25 million settlement with the Broward County School District.