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Uvalde school shooting victims' families announce $2 million settlement with Texas city and new lawsuits

$2 million settlement reached in Uvalde shooting
Families of Uvalde school shooting victims reach $2 million settlement with city 02:41

Family members of Uvalde school shooting victims reached a $2 million settlement with the Texas city over the deadly 2022 rampage, officials announced Wednesday. The group also said they're filing lawsuits against dozens of Texas Department of Public Safety officers and Uvalde's school district. Among them — a $500 million federal suit against nearly 100 state police officers who took part in the botched law enforcement response

The announcement comes nearly two years after a teenage gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. Law enforcement officers killed the gunman in a classroom after waiting more than an hour to confront him, which was heavily criticized in the wake of the shooting.

In the settlement announced Wednesday, the city of Uvalde will pay a total of $2 million to the families of 17 children killed in the shooting and two children who survived, according to a statement from the families' attorneys.

"Pursuing further legal action against the City could have plunged Uvalde into bankruptcy, something that none of the families were interested in as they look for the community to heal," the statement said.

The money will come from the city's insurance coverage, attorney Josh Koskoff told reporters at a news conference.

"These families could have pursued a lawsuit against the city, and there's certainly grounds for a lawsuit," Koskoff said. "Let's face it, sadly, we all saw what we saw … but instead of suing the city and jeopardizing the finances of anybody, the families have accepted simply the insurance."

The city said the settlement will allow people to remember the shooting while "moving forward together as a community to bring healing and restoration to all those affected."

"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," the city said in a statement. "May 24th is our community's greatest tragedy."

The families were also working on a separate settlement with Uvalde County, Koskoff said.

Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jackie Cazares was killed in the shooting, said the last two years have been unbearable.

"We all know who took our children's lives, but there was an obvious systemic failure out there on May 24," Cazares said. "The whole world saw that. No amount of money is worth the lives of our children. Justice and accountability has always been my main concern. We've been let down so many times. The time has come to do the right thing."

Javier Cazares, center, stands with families of the victims of the Uvalde elementary school shooting during a news conference May 22, 2024, in Uvalde, Texas.
Javier Cazares, center, stands with families of the victims of the Uvalde elementary school shooting during a news conference May 22, 2024, in Uvalde, Texas. AP Photo/Eric Gay

The settlement also includes the Uvalde Police Department committing to provide enhanced training for police officers and implement a new standard for officers to be developed in coordination with the U.S. Justice Department, according to the families' attorneys. The city also committed to supporting mental health services for the families, survivors and community members, creating a committee to coordinate with the families on a permanent memorial and establishing May 24 as an annual day of remembrance, in addition to taking other measures.

The families are also taking new legal action against 92 state Department of Public Safety officers and the school district, including former Robb Elementary School principal Mandy Gutierrez and Pete Arredondo, the school district's police chief who was fired months after the shooting.

"Law enforcement did not treat the incident as an active shooter situation, despite clear knowledge that there was an active shooter inside," Wednesday's statement said. "... The shooter was able to continue the killing spree for over an hour while helpless families waited anxiously outside the school."

Koskoff said the state's officers on the scene could have done more to respond to the shooting. They acted "as if they had nothing to do, as if they didn't know how to shoot somebody, as if they weren't heavily armed and the most well-trained," Koskoff said.

A Justice Department report released in January called the police response a failure.

"Had the law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices ... lives would have been saved and people would have survived," Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters at the time.

At Wednesday's news conference, Koskoff said the families would "down the line" be suing the federal government, noting that many federal law enforcement officers also responded to the shooting.

"You had over 150 some-odd federal officers there who also were there and stood around until one or more breached the room at 77 minutes," Koskoff said. "Sure, that was a heroic act, it was a heroic act 77 minutes late."

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