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Taxpayers forced to pay for alleged federal government negligence that led to mass killing at Texas church in 2017

Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has agreed to pay nearly $145 million in settlements related to the Sutherland Springs mass shooting in 2017, which left 26 dead and another 22 injured.

Victims and families of the victims argued the U.S. Air Force was partially responsible for the mass killing because Air Force officials failed — on six separate occasions, it was later revealed — to report critical information about the killer's history of violence and criminal convictions to the FBI's background check system. Had the proper reports been made, the killer would not have been able to purchase the firearms used in the massacre.

In 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Xavier Rodriguez agreed and ruled the government was "60 percent responsible" for the massacre. Last February, he awarded $230 million in damages. The government appealed the ruling in January.

What did the DOJ say?

The agency did not explain why it suddenly decided to settle the case after appealing it just months ago.

In a statement, the DOJ said the "agreement in principle" settles all claims for $144.5 million. The agreement "has been approved," but is still waiting on several other legal approvals before it can be finalized.

"No words or amount of money can diminish the immense tragedy of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs," said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. "Today’s announcement brings the litigation to a close, ending a painful chapter for the victims of this unthinkable crime.

What did the plaintiffs say?

Jamal Alsaffar, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, urged the Justice Department to finalize quickly the settlement.

"The Sutherland Springs families are heroes. The country owes them a debt of gratitude. They have gone through so much pain and loss in the most horrific way. But despite that, these families fought for justice, endured and won two trials against the federal government, and made this country safer as a result," the lawyer said.

"But the settlement is not final. Attorney General Garland’s office still must approve it, and we urge his Justice Department to act quickly to bring some closure to these families. It's the least they deserve," Alsaffar added.

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