The United States Government has reached a historic settlement with the survivors and family members of the victims of the February 2018 Florida high school shooting. The Department of Justice will pay $ 127.5 million to whistleblowers after police officers Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, did not follow a couple of leads that warned about the “erratic behavior” of Nikolas Cruz, the young man who killed 14 classmates and three teachers in the town of Parkland. This incident captivated the entire country and started a powerful movement against gun violence.
The news of the agreement between the parties has been confirmed by the Department of Justice, although some details of the negotiations have yet to be closed and are confidential. “This resolution is historic and signifies the culmination of a long and continuous effort by the Parkland families to find truth and responsibility,” the legal firm of the defendants said in a statement. Some judicial sources have confirmed to the press that the final amount to repair the damage could vary in the coming days once the definitive contract is signed.
The lawsuit was initiated by 40 survivors and relatives of those killed in the massacre of February 14, 2018. They had gone to court when they learned that a person close to Nikolas Cruz had called the FBI five weeks before the shooting to report him. The call, received on an anonymous information line, assured that the young man, who was 17 years old at the time, was showing off his weapons on his Instagram account and that “he would enter the school and shoot everywhere.” “It’s going to explode,” said the complaint, which also detailed the student’s troubled past and his propensity for violence as he liked to torture animals. Forty days later Cruz exploded at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School, where he had been a student.
The FBI acknowledged two days after the massacre that it had received the information, but that its agents had not followed investigative protocols. That had not been the only information received about Cruz, who in September 2017 had published a comment on YouTube where he assured that he would be a “professional shooter in schools.” Two agents interviewed the owner of the social platform channel, but did not receive enough information to connect the alias with the disturbed young man.
The confirmation was a blow to the stomach for the families, who were dealing with the sudden grief left by the shootings in the United States. Fred Guttemberg, the father of a student who died that day, received a call from investigators the night he was watching over his daughter. On the other end of the line an agent admitted the fault. “Are you telling me that if the FBI hadn’t been wrong and had done its job sooner, my daughter would still be alive?” Guttemberg asked. “I’m afraid that’s the way it is,” they responded, according to the text of the complaint.
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Guttemberg was one of the 40 parents who started the case against the Government. The group has already won a negligence case against Broward County school authorities, for which they received $ 25 million in damages. This is the second case in less than a month where the United States Government reaches an agreement with victims of US armed violence. A few weeks ago, the Justice Department agreed to disburse $ 88 million. These will go to the families of those killed in a shooting at an African-American church in South Carolina in 2015.
Cruz pleaded guilty to all 17 murder charges in October. He also admitted his guilt in the charge of attempted murder of 17 other people who were injured that morning. The killer, however, will go to trial next year. There the jury will determine the sentence for Cruz, which will be at least life imprisonment although he also faces the death penalty.
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