UVALDE, Texas — A California-based law firm signaled its intention to name several agencies as defendants in a massive class-action lawsuit set to be filed following the botched law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary shooting in May.
The law firm of Bonner & Bonner, which is representing victims and their families in the case, provided Uvalde CISD Superintendent Hal Harrell and other school trustees with a notice of claim at Monday evening's school board meeting. City Council members were served with the same noticed Tuesday evening, and Uvalde County Commissioners are expected to be served Wednesday.
The firm said it also plans to give notice to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the federal government and possibly the FBI.
"We don't want to leave any victim behind," attorney Charles Bonner told KENS 5 on Tuesday.
The notices states the firm will be seeking $27 billion for the claimants, alleging numerous failures on the part of the district and law enforcement that contributed to the physical and psychological injuries of the victims.
"We wanted a number that would approximate the harm that's been caused," Bonner said, adding the high damages amount is meant to send a message to other law enforcement and gun-makers.
Bonner & Bonner says it is representing about a dozen families affected by the May 24 shooting and believes more will eventually join the claim. Those eligible to be included extends to anyone who was in Robb Elementary during the shooting, including school employees, and guardians of kids who were at the school.
"The shooter's actions resulted in the savage murder of 19 children, two adults, and countless others with physical and emotional injuries whose impacts have scarred them beyond measure," reads the notice of claim.
The longer-term goal of the impending lawsuit: the creation of a fund victims can draw moneys from to cover psychological treatment.
The document also quotes the Texas House of Representatives investigative committee's findings on the shooting, laying out the shortcomings of law enforcement personnel during the shooting response.
"Since the 1999 Columbine tragedy, the law enforcement community has recognized the critical importance of implementing active shooter training for all officers, regardless of specialty," the notice states. "All officers must be willing to risk their lives without hesitation. At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety."
The document notes that Uvalde CISD's written active shooter plan directed the chief of police to assume command and control of the response to an active shooter, and that district Police Chief Pete Arredondo was one of the first responders on the scene.
"As events unfolded, he failed to perform or to transfer to another person the role of incident commander. This was an essential duty he had assigned to himself in the plan mentioned above, yet it was not effectively performed by anyone. The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life as injured victims waited over an hour for help, and the attacker continued to sporadically fire his weapon," the notice states.
The notice of claim also cites the committee's findings that doors at Robb Elementary School were frequently propped open or left unlocked, and that even though almost 400 officers responded to the scene, none of them checked to see whether the doors to rooms 111 and 112 were locked.
The school district and other agencies are facing a number of claims at both the federal and state level, listed below:
- 42 United States Code Section 1983; 14th Amendment substantive due process
- 42 USC 1983: Failure to Perform a Mandatory Duty
- 42 USC 1983: Failure to Train
- 42 USC 1983: Failure to Supervise
- 42 USC 1983: Negligent Hiring
- 42 USC 1983: Fourth Amendment
- 42 USC 1982: Municipal Liability
- 42 USC 1983: Fourteenth Amendment
- 42 USC 1985: Conspiracy
- 42 USC 1986: Failure to Intercede
- Negligence Per Se
- Premises Liability
- Gross Negligence
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
- Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
- Tortious Failure to Discharge a Mandatory Governmental Duty
- Negligent Hiring, Supervision, Retention
While the notice alerts Uvalde CISD officials – as well as other potential defendants to be named later – that the impending lawsuit seeks $27 billion, it also emphasizes that amount could potentially rise once all the facts about the events of May 24 are revealed.
"We cannot allow these kinds of shooting tragedies to ever occur again," Bonner said. "It will not bring back 19 10-or 9-year-old children, it will not bring (back) the two teachers. But it will address this tragedy."
Bonner & Bonner's website indicates the firm is also representing victims of the Buffalo supermarket shooting where 10 were killed on May 14.