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Parkland Massacre Survivors and Families of Victims Reach Massive Settlement with DOJ in Lawsuit Over Botched Handling of FBI Tips


Sign at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shown in Parkland, Florida.

The federal government reached a settlement on Monday in the negligence lawsuit filed against the FBI by the 40 survivors and families of victims of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Although the details of the settlement were not specified in court documents, the New York Times reported Monday that a person with details of the settlement disclosed that the payout would be $130 million. The Washington Post reported that the settlement amount was tentatively $127.5 million.

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people: 14-year-old student Alyssa Alhadeff, 35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel, 14-year-old student Martin Duque Anguiano, 17-year-old student Nicholas Dworet, 37-year-old assistant football coach Aaron Feis, 14-year-old student Jaime Guttenberg, 49-year-old athletic director Christopher Hixon, 15-year-old student Luke Hoyer, 14-year-old student Cara Loughran, 14-year-old student Gina Montalto, 17-year-old student Joaquin Oliver, 14-year-old student Alaina Petty, 18-year-old student Meadow Pollack, 17-year-old student Helena Ramsay, 14-year-old student Alexander Schachter, 16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup, and 15-year-old student Peter Wang.

The lawsuit alleged that the FBI was negligent. The FBI received multiple tips that Cruz posed a serious safety risk to those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but did “nothing whatsoever” in response, the suit said. Just weeks prior to the shooting, a call came into the FBI tip line saying that Cruz had guns and planned to “slip into a school and start shooting the place up.”

The caller also said that Cruz had posted photos of mutilated animals online, and that Cruz’s mother had recently died. “I know he’s going to explode,” the caller said to the tip line operator.

According to the lawsuit, the FBI not only failed to investigate those tips, but failed to even follow its usual mandatory protocols in responding to the information it received.

Law&Crime spoke with attorney Jay Cohen Tuesday, who represents 10 of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“On behalf of the 10 innocent victims I represent and in recognition of all the victims, it’s a tragedy that knows no bounds, but each resolution is meaningful to my clients for many reasons,” Cohen said.

Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in October. In early 2022, Cruz will face the penalty phase of the proceedings, in which a jury will decide whether Cruz will receive life in prison or the death penalty. In addition to his guilty pleas connected to the mass shooting, Cruz also pleaded guilty to battery charges for attacking a jail guard. Those charges will become aggravating factors in the penalty phase against him.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Read the notice of settlement below:

[imge via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos