MIAMI (AP) — Parents of victims in Florida’s 2018 high school massacre said Thursday they were glad to see the federal government reach a $127.5 million settlement over FBI inaction in the case and hope a future tragedy can be prevented.
One father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who was killed said the money can relieve financial stress, but won’t bring happiness or return their lost children. Another said at least some money likely will go into foundations in memory of victims.
Attorneys for victims’ families previously announced the settlement, in November, and the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed the deal and the dollar amount Wednesday.
The families of 16 out of 17 people killed, plus families of other people harmed in the shootings, had sued the government over the FBI’s failure to investigate a tip it received about a month before the massacre in Parkland, Florida.
The family of Martin Duque, a 14-year-old boy from Mexico who was part of the JROTC program, chose not to be part of the federal lawsuit. His family could not be reached for comment. His family is, however, part of another settlement in which the Broward County school district will pay families of victims who died about $1 million each.
Tony Montalto, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Gina, said nothing will compensate for what he and others lost in the shooting. He leads the advocacy group Stand With Parkland.
“I miss my daughter very much every day. I wish she was here with us,” Montalto said. “We know from conversations and from testimony that the FBI failed to protect our children, the students and the teachers. We hope that they make changes to prevent such tragedy from happening again.”
Montalto said he and other families have started foundations in the name of the loved ones. He had not discussed with other families plans for the money coming from the settlement but said probably some will be going to those foundations supporting programs related to what their children liked. Some are also advocating for gun safety reforms.
David Brill, an attorney representing four relatives and a survivor, said the families of those who were killed agreed they would receive equal amounts in the settlement, while those who suffered from injuries received a different amount, also equal to other victims who were injured but survived. The amounts have not been disclosed.
“They all recognize that they are a member of a club for which no one wants a membership invite,” Brill said. “They all appreciate that their respectful losses are no greater than the next person’s, and no lesser than the next person’s.”
Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was killed, said the settlement eases some of the financial stress, adding that many families’ lives changed and inflation has made matters worse.
“Money doesn’t bring happiness, but it will help in a way where they don’t have so much stress,” Pollack said. “It doesn’t bring back our children or help. It’s not something that we say ’Oh, it’s great.’ It’s getting money for your child being murdered.”
Pollack said some people lost their jobs or moved away from Parkland. He now lives in the woods in Oregon, saying he had to get away from Parkland.
“This is all about accountability,” he said. “They called me and took accountability that they screwed up. Not that it makes it any better.”
An FBI tip line received a call about five weeks before the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting, saying former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz had bought guns and planned to “slip into a school and start shooting the place up.”
The information was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office and Cruz was never contacted. He had been expelled from the school a year earlier and had a long history of emotional and behavioral problems.
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty last year to 17 counts of first-degree murder. He will receive either a death sentence or life in prison after a penalty trial that is scheduled to start April 4.
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