Couple Who Lost Nine Family Members in Texas Church Shooting Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against U.S. Air Force
Joe and Claryce Holcombe, who lost nine family members in the Sutherland Springs church shooting, have filed wrongful death claims against the U.S. Air Force. According to a KSAT news report, the couple’s son, Bryan Holcombe, and eight other family members including an unborn child, were among the 26 people who were killed in last month’s church shooting when a man walking in to the sanctuary and opened fire on congregants at the First Baptist Church who were attending Sunday services.
Failure to Prevent Mass Shooting
The wrongful death claims state that the deaths were caused “in whole or in part” by the institutional failures of the U.S. Department of Defense including the U.S. Air Force. The Holcombes say they want to “discipline the Air Force” so that something like this doesn’t happen again. The complaint also states that the Air Force did not enter the gunman’s criminal convictions, arrest and military discharge information. All of that would have prevented him from buying or possessing firearms, ammunition and body armor he used in the shooting.
Joe Holcombe told KSAT that the Air Force really dropped the ball in this situation by not making that vital information available. The Air Force has blamed the failures in training and compliance measures. The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson in 2012. Air Force officials previously acknowledged that they did not submit Kelley’s criminal history to the FBI, as required under Pentagon rules. As a result, Kelley was able to purchase a gun each year from 2014 to 2017.
Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death claims are usually brought by surviving family members who have lost loved ones as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. In this case, the family lost not one, but nine of its loved ones including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Had the U.S. Air Force informed the FBI about this individual, he might have been prevented from purchasing the firearms during a routine background check.
As wrongful death attorneys, we often see that these lawsuits are not about money. It is clear that this family wants to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. We hope that this family’s crusade ends up in better communication among federal agencies and plays a role in prevents dangerous firearms from getting into the wrong hands.