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Court Finds U.S. Government Responsible For Allowing Sutherland Springs Gunman to Purchase Firearms

Corpus Christi, Texas – July 8, 2021.  In a historic ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas has ruled in favor of the survivors and families of the victims in the deadly November 5, 2017 Sutherland Springs shooting at the First Baptist Church. Judge Xavier Rodriguez found the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) “failure to exercise reasonable care increased the risk of physical harm to the general public, including Plaintiffs.”

The Court further noted “its failure proximately caused the deaths and injuries of Plaintiffs at the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church on November 5, 2017.”  Specifically, the Court found that the USAF was negligent in failing to provide the shooter’s domestic violence convictions to the FBI.  Had the convictions been reported, the gunman would have been prevented from buying the rifle that was used to kill 26 and injure 22 people. The attack was the deadliest shooting in Texas and fifth-deadliest mass shooting in the United States.

Hilliard Law and Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys represent Ryland Ward, a 5-year-old boy, who sustained life-altering injuries in the shooting, as well as his mother, Chancie McMahan.  They also represent Scott Holcombe, who lost seven family members including his mother, during the rampage.

The attorneys alleged that despite federal law requiring the USAF to record Kelley’s dangerous and criminal background, the government failed to follow proper protocol requiring the reporting of Devin Kelley’s disqualifying conviction.  This failure allowed Mr. Kelley to purchase the firearm used in the attack. Had this information been properly reported, Kelley would have been prohibited from legally buying the firearm used in the deadly assault, plaintiffs assert.

The Court agreed, finding the United States “60% responsible for this harm and jointly and severally liable for the damages that may be awarded.”

Mr. Hilliard stated, “This ruling is historic. The Court has recognized the government’s role and its numerous significant failures in allowing a man it knew to be extremely dangerous to legally buy a firearm, which led to the tragic loss of life. Although his life will never be the same, young Ryland Ward, who was shot 5 times, and who lost family members will now be able to seek damages for his injuries. Our justice system is beginning to do what it is designed to do: put the pieces back together for these families.”

The case will proceed to a second trial phase to determine damages in the coming months.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jamal Alsaffar and Tom Jacob of Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham & Jacob PLLC, Robert Ammons and April Strahan of The Ammons Law Firm, Daniel Barks of Speiser Krause PC, Jason Steed of Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton LLP, Mark Collmer of Collmer Law Group, Justin Demerath of O’Hanlon, Demerath & Castillo, Bob Hilliard of Hilliard Law, Hugh Plummer of the Law Offices of Thomas J. Henry, Dennis Peery and R. Craig Bettis of Tyler & Peery, Kelly W. Kelly of Anderson & Associates Law Firm, Brett Reynolds of Brett Reynolds & Associates PC, Frank Herrera Jr. and Jorge A. Herrera of The Herrera Law Firm, Jason Webster of The Webster Law Firm, Erik Knockaert & Joe Schreiber of Schreiber Knockaert PLLC, Tim Maloney and Paul Campolo of Maloney & Campolo LLP, Daniel Sciano of Tinsman & Sciano, George LeGrand and Stanley Bernstein of LeGrand and Bernstein, and Craig W. Carlson and Phillip J. Koelsch of The Carlson Law Firm P.C.

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Contact Elisabeth Tabor at (866) 927-3420

About Hilliard Law

Hilliard Law specializes in mass torts, personal injury, product liability, commercial and business litigation, and wrongful death. Hilliard Law has been successfully representing clients in the United States and Mexico since 1985. Our experienced, tenacious legal team has earned a national and international reputation for taking on large, powerful, wealthy companies and bringing them to justice for causing personal injury or wrongful death. Bob Hilliard obtained the Largest Verdict in the country in 2012 and the #1 verdict in Texas.

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