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Justice Dept agrees to pay $144.5 million to Texas shooting victims

Justice Department to announce arrests in significant national security matters at press conference
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The Justice Department announced a $144.5 million settlement on Wednesday with victims of a 2017 mass shooting at a church in Texas that left 26 people dead and 22 injured.

The agreement in principle, which still needs court approval, is aimed at resolving civil lawsuits stemming from the attack carried out by a former member of the US Air Force, the department said in a statement.

A federal district court judge ruled in July 2021 that the government was partly liable because the air force failed to enter information into the FBI’s background check system that would have prevented the assailant from buying a gun.

Devin Kelley, who killed himself after carrying out the attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, had a conviction for domestic violence on his record and had been court-martialed.

The Texas judge who heard the case ordered the government to pay more than $230 million to victims of the attack but the Justice Department appealed the ruling.

The Justice Department said the tentative settlement resolves claims by the more than 75 plaintiffs who had accused the air force of negligence.

“No words or amount of money can diminish the immense tragedy of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs,” associate attorney general Vanita Gupta said.

“Today’s announcement brings the litigation to a close, ending a painful chapter for the victims of this unthinkable crime,” Gupta said.

The Justice Department has previously reached large monetary settlements with victims of mass shootings.

A total of $127.5 million was awarded in March 2022 to survivors and relatives of victims of the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

In October 2021, the Justice Department reached an $88 million settlement with victims of a 2015 shooting by a white supremacist at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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