A federal judge on Monday (Feb. 7) ordered the U.S. Air Force to pay restitution to members of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a former service member killed dozens and injured many more in a mass shooting in 2017.
Twenty-six people, including an unborn baby, were killed Nov. 5, 2017, when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at the church. At least 22 others were wounded in the attack.
Kelley, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound following the attack, had served in the Air Force. Records show Kelley had pleaded guilty to multiple charges of assault during his time in the military.
Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault is supposed to be submitted to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division for inclusion in the National Criminal Information Center database. For unspecified reasons, the Air Force did not provide the information about Kelley as required.
‘Families are heroes’
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ruled in July that the Air Force was “60% liable” for the attack because of this failure to report. Rodriguez ruled Feb. 7 that the Air Force must pay survivors and victims’ families, around 80 claimants in all, more than $230 million in damages.
“These families are the heroes here. While no amount can bring back the many lives lost or destroyed at the hands of the government’s negligence, their bravery in obtaining this verdict will make this country safer by helping ensure that this type of governmental failure does not happen in our country again,” Jamal Alsaffar, the attorney who represented the victims and their families, told The Associated Press.