Uvalde shooting victims' families reach $2M settlement with city, file new $500M case against Texas officials

Uvalde shooting victims' families reach $2M settlement with city, file new $500M case against Texas officials

The families of 19 victims of the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting filed a $500 million lawsuit in federal court Wednesday against 91 Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers and the local school district, deeming their response to the 2022 massacre the "single greatest failure of law enforcement to confront an active shooter in American history."

The lawsuit comes just two days short of the two-year anniversary of the May 22, 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School, where 18 fourth grade students and two teachers were killed. More than 370 federal, state and local officers converged on the scene, but they waited more than 70 minutes before a team led by Border Patrol agents confronted and killed the 18-year-old gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos.

Uvalde School District, former Robb Elementary Principal Mandy Gutierrez and former Uvalde Schools Police Chief Peter Arredondo are also named as defendants.

"Nearly 100 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety have yet to face a shred of accountability for cowering in fear while my daughter and nephew bled to death in their classroom," Veronica Luevanos, whose daughter Jailah and nephew Jayce were killed, said in a statement reported by the Texas Tribune.

DPS Director Steven McCraw previously deemed the police response an "abject failure" but has levied discipline against just two of the 91 state police officers who were at the scene, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It was also announced Wednesday that the city of Uvalde agreed to pay the 17 families of children who were killed and two families of children who were wounded a $2 million settlement. To avoid litigation, the city also agreed to overhaul the Uvalde Police Department, including by implementing a new "fitness for duty" standard for officers, to be developed in coordination with the Justice Department, and by providing enhanced training for current and future police officers. Per the settlement terms, May 24 will be dedicated as an annual day of remembrance, and city officials will work with victims’ families to design a permanent memorial.



"You think the city of Uvalde has enough money, or training, or resources? You think they can hire the best of the best?" Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said at a press conference. "As far as the state of Texas is concerned, it sounds like their position is: You're on your own."

According to the Tribune, the lawsuit seeking $500 million in damages must overcome the hurdle of qualified immunity, a doctrine that largely shields law enforcement from being sued over their jobs.

"We think that this situation where kids, after all, are required to lock down in their classrooms, their freedom is constrained," Koskoff said. "In this situation we feel like qualified immunity is not applicable."

It is the first lawsuit to be filed after a 600-page Justice Department report was released in January that cataloged "cascading failures" in training, communication, leadership and technology problems that day.

The lawsuit notes that state troopers did not follow their active shooter training or confront the shooter, even as the students and teachers inside were following their own lockdown protocols of turning off lights, locking doors and staying silent.

"The protocols trap teachers and students inside, leaving them fully reliant on law enforcement to respond quickly and effectively," the families and their attorneys said in a statement.

Terrified students inside the classroom called 911 as agonized parents begged officers, some of whom could hear shots being fired while they stood in a hallway, to go in.

"Law enforcement’s inaction that day was a complete and absolute betrayal of these families and the sons, daughters and mothers they lost," Erin Rogiers, one of the attorneys for the families, said. "TXDPS had the resources, training and firepower to respond appropriately, and they ignored all of it and failed on every level. These families have not only the right but also the responsibility to demand justice."

A criminal investigation into police response by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell’s office is ongoing. A grand jury was summoned this year, and some law enforcement officials have already been called to testify.

The state police response was second only to U.S. Border Patrol, which saw nearly 150 agents respond. The list of DPS officials named as defendants includes two troopers who were fired, another who left the agency and several more whom the agency said it investigated, according to The Associated Press. The highest ranking DPS official among the defendants is South Texas Regional Director Victor Escalon.

The Texas DPS told the AP that the agency would not comment on pending litigation.


A separate lawsuit filed by different plaintiffs in December 2022 against local and state police, the city, and other schools and law enforcement, seeks at least $27 billion and class-action status for survivors. Additionally, at least two other lawsuits have been filed against Georgia-based gun manufacturer Daniel Defense, which made the AR-style rifle used by the gunman.

The families said the settlement with the city was capped at $2 million because they did not want to bankrupt the city where they still live. The settlement will be paid from the city’s insurance coverage.

"The last thing they want to do was inflict financial hardship on their friend and neighbors in this community. Their friends and neighbors didn’t let them down," Koskoff said.

The city of Uvalde released a statement saying the settlement would bring "healing and restoration" to the community.

"We will forever be grateful to the victims’ families for working with us over the past year to cultivate an environment of community-wide healing that honors the lives and memories of those we tragically lost. May 24th is our community’s greatest tragedy," the city said.

Howerver, Javier Cazares, the father of slain 9-year-old Jackie Cazares, noted that the announcement, which was made in the same Uvalde Civic Center where the families gathered to be told their children were dead or wounded, was sparsely attended.

"On the way over here, I saw the sticker, which I see everywhere, ‘Uvalde Strong.’ If that was the case, this room should be filled, and then some. Show your support. It's been an unbearable two years," he said. "No amount of money is worth the lives of our children. Justice and accountability has always been my main concern."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original article source: Uvalde shooting victims' families reach $2M settlement with city, file new $500M case against Texas officials