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US govt reaches $127.5 million settlement with high school shooting victims

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Wendy Behrend, a school crossing guard, pays her respects at a memorial for victims of the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida./AFP
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Mar 17, 2022 - 09:10 AM

WASHINGTON — The US Justice Department announced Wednesday that it had reached a $127.5-million settlement with survivors and relatives of victims of the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The agreement settles all 40 of the civil cases stemming from the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and 17 wounded, the department said in a statement.

“The settlement does not amount to an admission of fault by the United States,” it said.

Survivors of the shooting and the families of 16 of the people killed had sued the government for damages.

The shooting was the worst school massacre in the United States since the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, which left 26 dead.

Nikolas Cruz, a former student at Stoneman Douglas, pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

In lawsuits, survivors and relatives accused the FBI of negligence for failing to act on tips received prior to the attack that Cruz was dangerous.

“I know he’s going to explode,” a woman who knew Cruz said on the FBI’s tip line on January 5, 2018, five weeks before the shooting.

Cruz was going to “slip into a school and start shooting the place up,” the woman allegedly told the FBI.

The FBI confirmed it was alerted several months before the attack to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

“Contrary to its own established rules, the FBI failed to take any action whatsoever with the information it received,” the lawsuit charged.

Cruz legally bought the AR-15 he used in the shooting despite being in local records as having a history of mental health problems.

The Florida shooting stunned the country and sparked new efforts, led by students from the school itself, for tougher gun control — although the polarized US Congress has yet to enact meaningful gun reform.

A rally organized by Stoneman Douglas students, “March for Our Lives,” drew hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital in March 2018.

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