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Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

Thomas J. Henry Seeks Victims’ Compensation Fund and Corrective Measures to National Criminal Information Center Database Following Tragic Attack

Thomas J. Henry is investigating claims that the U.S. government failed to properly document violent offenses committed by the Sutherland Springs shooter prior to his heinous attack.

Official reports suggest that had these past crimes been reported to the National Criminal Information Center database as required by law, the shooter would have been unable to purchase the firearms he used in the attack, preventing the tragedy from occurring.

It is the goal of Thomas J. Henry to ensure that those who were injured or lost loved ones to this attack are properly compensated for their medical bills, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship. Further, it is Thomas J. Henry’s hope that an investigation into the entities that failed to report the shooter’s troubled past will help improve our nation’s criminal record reporting process and prevent future tragedies from occurring.

Thomas J. Henry Pushes for Blue Ribbon Panel to Investigate Government Failures

Because of the exceptional circumstances that led to the Sutherland Springs shooter acquiring the firearms used in his attack, Thomas J. Henry is calling on the federal government to form a Blue Ribbon Panel, also called a Blue Ribbon Commission, to complete an in-depth investigation of our nation’s criminal record reporting processes.

Members of the panel would work with the states and with federal agencies, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), to create a system that guarantees adequate and accurate information is being reported to the National Criminal Information Center database as is federally mandated.

In addition, it would be the responsibility of this panel to determine how many convicted felons, or individuals disqualified from possessing weapons,  have been improperly documented in federal databases and how many have acquired weapons they would have otherwise been ineligible to purchase.

Thomas J. Henry Calls on Government to Create Victims’ Compensation Fund

The sad truth is that the Sutherland Springs shooting could have likely been prevented if not for the negligence of certain government officials. As such, any victim of the mass shooting should have the opportunity to seek compensation from the government for any physical, emotional, or financial damages they have suffered.

The Federal Tort Claims Act does allow private parties to sue the United States government in federal court for tortuous actions committed by individuals acting on behalf of the United States government. In such situations, the federal government acts as a self-insurer and recognizes the liability for the negligence, wrongful acts, or omissions of employees acting within the scope of their official duties.

However, as an alternative to such litigation, Thomas J. Henry is calling on the federal government to make available a victims’ compensation fund. A victims’ compensation fund would mean that those who were injured and lost loved ones in this tragic event would not bear sole responsibility for the financial burdens they have been left with. Instead, the government would draw from the victims’ compensation fund to assist affected individuals and families with their expenses.

Damages covered by a victims’ compensation fund should include, but not be limited to:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of earning potential
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of emotional support
  • Therapy expenses
  • Loss of quality of life

It is Thomas J. Henry’s belief that every victim, with or without the benefit of an attorney, should have the government come to them, ready to help.

Government Admits Fault for Failed Background Check

“Learning that this senseless act of violence might have been prevented if only the proper form was filled out by military investigators was absolutely devastating,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) 

In a statement released after the attack, U.S. Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek acknowledged that the government failed to properly document the shooter’s criminal past.

According to Stefanek, “Initial information indicates that [the shooter’s] domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations.”

Stefanek added that federal law should have prohibited the shooter from buying or possessing firearms after his conviction. Unfortunately, because the conviction was not properly relayed to the appropriate authorities, the shooter was able to pass a background check and purchase weapons through a San Antonio-area sporting goods store.

The tragic lapse in reporting and record-keeping has raised multiple concerns as the same database used to conduct background checks for gun purchases is also utilized by health and child care licensing agencies.

An official close to the investigation alluded to this larger problem by saying, “If you spend 12 months in jail or prison for a criminal offense that is nowhere to be found in state or FBI records, what is anybody supposed to do?”

Sutherland Springs Shooter Had a Clear History of Violence

According to the Air Force, the Sutherland Springs shooter was sentenced to a year in military confinement for the 2012 assault of his wife and a child.

Reports of the assault reference the shooter striking his wife, choking her, and kicking her as well as striking a child, identified in the report as his step-son, on the head and body “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”

The shooter was given a bad-conduct discharge in 2014.

Pentagon rules state that information about convictions of military personnel in crimes like the violent domestic assaults committed by the shooter are to be submitted to the FBI for inclusion in the National Criminal Information Center database.

Lawmakers Join the Call for Investigation into Background Check System

The government’s admitted failure to properly document the shooter’s criminal history has left lawmakers reeling and looking for answers; specifically, lawmakers are asking how many other convicted service members are improperly documented.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined other members of congress in demanding the Pentagon and Justice Department conduct an official investigation. In a tweet, he called for the Justice Department to “provide a clear picture of where, why, and how this process failed.”

The Air Force has since ordered a review of the shooter’s assault case by the Air Force Office of the Inspector General. The Pentagon has stated that it will review relevant policies and procedures to ensure the records of other cases are correctly reported.

Get the Help You Deserve While Helping Us Prevent Future Tragedies

If you were injured or lost a loved one in the Sutherland Springs shooting, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our attorneys will fight to ensure you are fairly compensated for your injuries and damages. Together we can shine a light on the failings that allowed this tragedy to occur, and bring about the changes necessary to make sure a similar tragedy never occurs again. We are available 24/7, nights and weekends. If you are unable to make it to one of our offices, we will send an attorney to you.

 

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