FBI to pay millions to Parkland school shooting victims’ families

Lawyers for the families say they have reached a settlement with the FBI for failure to follow up on tips about the gunman.

School shooting US
Demonstrators hold signs during a 'March for Our Lives' rally in support of gun control in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School [File: Nam Y Huh/The Associated Press]

The families of most of the students who were wounded or killed in a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida have reached a settlement with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), their lawyers have said.

The lawyers, who represented 16 of 17 students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as several of the wounded, said on Monday that they had reached a settlement over the agency’s failure to investigate tips it had received months before the February 14, 2018 massacre.

On that day Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from the high school a year earlier, walked into building 12 armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and opened fire indiscriminately. In about six minutes he killed 17 people and injured 17 others, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

US media has reported the FBI will pay a total of about $130m, although details of the settlement were confidential.

“It has been an honor to represent the Parkland families who, through their immeasurable grief, have devoted themselves to making the world a safer place,” the victims’ lead lawyer, Kristina Infante, said in a statement. “Although no resolution could ever restore what the Parkland families lost, this settlement marks an important step toward justice.”

About six weeks before the shooting, an FBI tip line received a call saying a former Stoneman Douglas student, Nikolas Cruz, had bought guns and planned to “slip into a school and start shooting the place up”.

“I know he’s going to explode,” the caller told the FBI.

But that information was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office and Cruz was never contacted.

Meanwhile, five months before the shooting, the owner of a YouTube channel had reported a comment left under one of his videos in which a user by the name of “nikolas cruz” had claimed that he would become “a professional school shooter”.

Just days after the shooting, the FBI admitted it had not followed up on either of the pieces of information.

Cruz had been expelled from the school a year before the attack and had a long history of emotional and behavioural problems.

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the shooting, commended the FBI for accepting responsibility for its inaction, saying the shooting was the result of larger failings by the agency, the Broward County school district and sheriff’s office, the school security staff and the psychologists who treated Cruz.

“The FBI has made changes to make sure this never happens again,” Pollack said.

Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty last month to 17 counts of first-degree murder. He will receive either a death sentence or life in prison after a penalty trial that is scheduled to start in January.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies