Families of Newtown, Connecticut, massacre victims plan lawsuits

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2014 7:25 AM

By Richard Weizel

NEWTOWN, Conn. (Reuters) - Parents of almost half the young children killed by a gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, two years ago on Sunday have taken initial steps toward filing lawsuits tied to one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

For a second straight year the leafy suburb has planned no public events to commemorate the massacre, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, an incident that inflamed the U.S. debate over gun control.

The parents of eight of the children killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, carnage, which 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza ended by shooting himself dead as he heard police sirens approach, have notified Connecticut courts that they may file wrongful death lawsuits in state or federal court.

Their initial court filings, related to legal entities created in memory of their children, do not indicate who the families could target in their lawsuits, according to a chief court clerk for North Fairfield County Probate Court.

While the parents could not be reached for comment, a spokesman for Bridgeport law firm Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder said that a lawyer at the firm had recently met with some of the Newtown parents about potential suits.

"Attorney Josh Koskoff has met with parents about legal action," said Geraldo Parrilla, a legal assistant with the firm.

While Newtown grabbed the nation's attention, school shootings remain common across the United States. Some 95 incidents, including fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides and unintentional shootings have taken place across 33 states since Newtown, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group created by the merger of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group founded after the attack.

"It's astounding," said Shannon Watts, who founded the Moms group. "There is no other developed country that would tolerate this kind of gun violence around school age children."

Gun-rights advocates note that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms and suggested after the attack that armed guards in schools could avert future violence.

Newtown, located some 78 miles (126 kilometers) northeast of New York City, has razed the school that was site of the attack and recently acquired the home where Lanza lived with his mother, who he shot dead as the first act of his rampage. That building may also be torn down.

Newtown plans no public ceremonies to mark Sunday's anniversary of the shootings.

"The second anniversary, like the first one last year, will be recognized in personal reflection and remembrance,” said Newtown's highest elected official, First Selectman Patricia Llodra, and Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi, in a statement ... “There are no formal or official ceremonies to be held by the town or school district."

But a 12-member commission that includes four parents of young victims of the attack is steadily moving ahead to create a permanent memorial to honor the dead.

"We are meeting monthly, but have taken December off out of respect for the families who lost their loves ones on that tragic day," said Kyle Lyddy, chairman of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission that is entering its final phase of recommending either a single or multiple memorials.

Lyddy said the panel is considering such proposals as an outdoor park and gardens, and indoor murals and art exhibits. He said the commission has not set a deadline because "Our main goal is to get this right." 

(Additional reporting by Barbara Liston in Orlando, Florida; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernard Orr)