Justice Department to pay about $130 million to Parkland shooting victims

Miami Published: Nov 24, 2021, 12:01 AM(IST)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida Photograph:( The New York Times )

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The FBI acknowledged two days after the February 14, 2018, shooting that it had received the tips about Cruz but had not investigated them in accordance with its protocols

The Justice Department will pay about $130 million to 40 survivors and families of victims of the 2018 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, over the FBI’s failure to properly investigate two tips in the months before the shooting that suggested the gunman might open fire at a school.

One of the tips, six weeks before the shooting, detailed how the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was posting on Instagram about amassing weapons and ammunition. “I know he’s going to explode,” the woman said on the FBI’s tip line, adding that she feared Cruz, then 19, “was going to slip into a school and start shooting the place up.”

Forty days later, Cruz did just that, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had previously been a student.

The FBI acknowledged two days after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting that it had received the tips about Cruz but had not investigated them in accordance with its protocols. Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder last month. He is scheduled to go on trial early next year. A jury will decide if he faces capital punishment or life imprisonment.

The Justice Department said in court papers that it was in the process of completing a settlement, without disclosing the amount. Two people familiar with the case said it would total about $130 million, though the precise number could change before the final agreement.

The revelation that the FBI had received information about the gunman ahead of the shooting devastated victims’ families and the Parkland community in the days immediately following the shooting. Fred Guttenberg was picking out a casket for his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, two days after the shooting when he got 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 did not make a mistake and did their job a month sooner, my daughter would still be alive today?” Guttenberg asked the agent, according to the lawsuit Guttenberg and the 39 other families eventually filed against the bureau.

“I’m afraid so, sir,” the agent replied, according to Guttenberg.

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 had been “completely preventable.”

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