Victims' families consider suing Air Force for error that let church shooter buy guns

Twenty-six people died in the Sutherland Springs church shooting, including an unborn child. (Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

A local attorney says some families of those killed in the Sutherland Springs church massacre are now considering suing the U.S. Air Force.

The agency’s error allowed the shooter to buy guns.

Tim Maloney, personal injury attorney in San Antonio, said he believes a lawsuit is “inevitable.” The families would stand to win millions of dollars, but he said money is secondary.

“I think the motivation for every single one of those families, family members, is to have some accountability,” Maloney said. “How did this happen? Is there something we can do to prevent it from happening again?”

The Air Force has said it’s investigating why military personnel did not report Devin Kelley’s criminal record to the federal database. The gunman’s background check came up clean, letting him buy weapons.

Military officials have said they’re looking into whether conviction records for other servicemembers were properly entered into the database.

“I don’t think we should have to rely upon an Air Force report to tell us what they’re doing,” Maloney said. “I think the oversight needs to come from the courts.”

The attorney said the Federal Tort Claims Act permits a lawsuit against the federal government, but the standard is high – “Did that screwup, was that the responsible act that caused this shooting?” he said.

It doesn’t appear that any cases have been filed yet.

“It’s (an) extremely difficult lawsuit. Very hard,” Maloney said. “But the only way that I believe that you’re going to have some accountability is by going forward.”


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