Church shootings happen periodically in the United States, where it is often easy to carry a gun. But on this occasion the U.S. Air Force was ordered to pay more than $230 million in damages to survivors and victims’ families of a 2017 Texas church massacre.
A U.S. federal judge ruled on Feb. 7 that the air force failed to raise awareness of a conviction that might have kept the gunman from legally buying the weapon used in the shooting, Military.com reported.
More than two dozen people were killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez had in July ruled that the Air Force holds 60 percent of the responsibility for the shooting in the Texas church, Yahoo News reported.
More than 25 people were killed in the shooting.
Kelley died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard the gunfire at the church.
The gunman had served in the Air Force before the attack.
In his order on Feb. 7 Rodriguez said the Air Force to pay the millions of dollars to compensate more than 80 family members of victims and survivors, for “pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, impairment, and loss of companionship or consortium.”
Rodriguez had ruled that the Air Force was liable for the attack because it failed to submit Kelley’s assault conviction during his time in the Air Force to a national database.
Judge Rodriguez said the case was “unprecedented in kind and scope.”
He said that the pain and loss experienced by the families was “immeasurable”.
“Ultimately, there is no satisfying way to determine the worth of these families’ pain,” the judge said.
“Had the government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system — it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the church shooting,” the ruling stated.
“For these reasons, the government bears significant responsibility for the plaintiffs’ harm.”
Following this week’s judgment, the families’ lawyer said in a statement, “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.”