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Stoneman High School massacre families to get ‘$127.5MILLION payout’

The families of most of those killed and wounded in the 2018 Florida high school massacre announced Monday have reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the federal government over the FBI’s failure to stop the gunman even though it had received information he intended to attack.

Attorneys for 16 of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and some of those wounded said they have reached a monetary settlement with the government over the FBI’s failure to investigate a tip it received about a month before the massacre. 

The 17th family chose not to sue.

The families of most of those killed and wounded in the 2018 Florida high school massacre announced Monday have reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the federal government over the FBI’s failure to stop the gunman even though it had received information he intended to attack. Nikolas Cruz entered guilty pleas to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a Florida court this morning (pictured in court last month) 

Surveillance video captured Cruz, now 23, stalking the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, aged 19

Surveillance video captured Cruz, now 23, stalking the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, aged 19

Cruz activated the fire alarm and then opened fire for a total of six minutes, killing 17 - 14 students and three teachers - and wounding 17 others (Pictured: Students were evacuated from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School by police during the mass shooting)

Cruz activated the fire alarm and then opened fire for a total of six minutes, killing 17 – 14 students and three teachers – and wounding 17 others (Pictured: Students were evacuated from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School by police during the mass shooting)

Seventeen people were killed in the shooting on Valentine's Day 2018 - 14 students, and three school workers

Seventeen people were killed in the shooting on Valentine’s Day 2018 – 14 students, and three school workers 

The attorneys said the settlement’s details are confidential, but a person familiar with the deal said the government will pay the families $127.5 million overall. 

The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the amount.

‘It has been an honor to represent the Parkland families who, through their immeasurable grief, have devoted themselves to making the world a safer place,’ their lead attorney, Kristina Infante, said in a statement. 

‘Although no resolution could ever restore what the Parkland families lost, this settlement marks an important step toward justice.’

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the shooting, commended the FBI for accepting responsibility for its inaction, comparing it to the Broward County school district and sheriff's office, the school security staff and the psychologists who treated the shooter

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the shooting, commended the FBI for accepting responsibility for its inaction, comparing it to the Broward County school district and sheriff’s office, the school security staff and the psychologists who treated the shooter

Gina Montalto, 14, was one of 17 victims on the Valentine's Day shooting. Her mother Jennifer (right) was pictured during a court recess

Gina Montalto, 14, was one of 17 victims on the Valentine’s Day shooting. Her mother Jennifer (right) was pictured during a court recess 

Tony Montalto wore a pin of his daughter Gina, who died in the massacre

Tony Montalto wore a pin of his daughter Gina who died in the massacre at Cruz’s trial 

How were at least 16 warning signs missed for Nikolas Cruz?

1. ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter’

Nikolas Cruz left a comment on a YouTube video back in September using his own name that simply read: ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter’ 

2. FBI was warned about the comment but couldn’t identify him

Vlogger Ben Bennight alerted the FBI to the comment shared by Cruz. The FBI was quick to respond, arriving at his office the next day but only after Bennight called a local field agent, revealing his initial attempts to send in a screengrab of the comment failed when the email address he found listed on the agency’s website came back with a domain error saying it did not exist. The FBI was unable to identify the person who posted the comment.

3. Bought an AR-15 age 18 

4. Troubling Instagram page 

Cruz’s Instagram page is filled with disturbing posts of what appears to be himself showing off with weapons with his face covered, asking for advice on buying firearms, and making racist comments about Muslims.

5. Was a member of a white nationalist group and came to training exercises

Jordan Jereb claims that Cruz was a member of the Republic of Florida, which aims to make Florida its own white-entho state. 

6. Boasted about hurting animals

Students who say they knew Cruz claimed he liked to kill animals.

‘He was crazy because he liked to kill small things, like little animals – frogs and other animals like that and he just had a crazy mind,’ one told 10ABC news. 

Another classmate claims he would tell him he shot rats with a BB gun. 

7. Took knives and bullets to school

Former classmate Joshua Charo, 16, said all he ‘would talk about is guns, knives and hunting’. 

Another student said he started selling knives out of a lunchbox when he started high school, while he was also found to be carrying bullet casings in his bag.

8. Was banned from carrying a backpack

Jim Gard, a math teacher, who had Cruz in his class last year, said he believes the school sent out an email warning teachers he shouldn’t be allowed on campus with a backpack.

‘There were problems with him last year threatening students and I guess he was asked to leave campus’. 

9. Expelled for fighting

The deeply troubled ‘loner’ was expelled last year for ‘fighting over his ex-girlfriend’ with her new boyfriend.

10. Abusive to his ex-girlfriend

Students claim the gunman was abusive to his girlfriend 

11. Stalked another girl

Mr Gard also claimed that he was taken with another student ‘to the point of stalking her’, while another student who claims to have been friends with Cruz said he had to cut him off because he started ‘going after’ and ‘threatening’ a female friend of his. 

12. Peeping Tom

Neighbor Christine Rosburgh said she, and all the other neighbors, were terrified of the teen who would bang his head against a cement wall if his legal guardians tried to send him to school.

She also claims she caught him peeking in her window and when she confronted him, he said he was looking for golf balls.

‘I said, “This isn’t the golf course”. 

13. Stopped his mental health treatment

Cruz had been getting treatment at a mental health clinic, but stopped about a year ago and dropped off the radar. He was showing signs of depression. 

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said: ‘It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him. We try to keep out eyes out on those kids who aren’t connected… In this case, we didn’t find a way to connect with this kid.’ 

14. Possible fetal alcohol syndrome

Natalie Brassard, a program director at the non-profit FASCETS, which works with FASD children, said some of Cruz’s characteristics ‘suggest that he might have been living with an invisible brain-based condition – it could have been FASD or many others.’

Conditions of FASD can range from mild to severe but can include learning disabilities, intellectual disability or low IQ, poor reasoning and judgment and a host of other issues. 

15. Orphaned 

Cruz’s adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, 68, died of pneumonia in November last year. She was one of the only people that was remotely close to Cruz. His adoptive father Roger Cruz died of a heart attack several years ago.  

16. Disturbing posts on Snapchat 

Cruz was investigated by state authorities in 2016 after he filmed himself cutting his own arms on Snapchat and saying he wanted to buy a gun.

He posted the video on the social media app in September 2016, 17 months before he allegedly committed the school shooting.

He posted the Snapchat clip just days after turning 18 year of age and shortly after he broke up with his girlfriend ‘who was cheating on him,’ his mother told investigators.  

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the shooting, commended the FBI for accepting responsibility for its inaction, comparing it to the Broward County school district and sheriff’s office, the school security staff and the psychologists who treated the shooter. 

He believes they all failed to stop the shooter and have ducked responsibility.

‘The FBI has made changes to make sure this never happens again,’ Pollack said.

Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died, said no settlement will ‘replace my bright, bubbly and beautiful daughter.’ He said that while other families celebrate Thanksgiving this week, Gina’s chair will remain empty.

Both Montalto and Pollack said any money they receive will not replace their daughters.

Paul David Stern, the lead attorney defending the government, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

About five weeks before the February 14, 2018, shooting, an FBI tip line received a call saying a former Stoneman Douglas student, Nikolas Cruz, had bought guns and planned to ‘slip into a school and start shooting the place up.’

‘I know he’s going to explode,’ the caller told the FBI.

But that 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 month 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 in January.

Cruz, a former student, then 19, had burst into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, armed with an AR-15 rifle, ‘multiple magazines’ and smoke grenades after arriving in an Uber. 

He killed 14 students and three staff members, and wounded 17 more people. 

Cruz is believed to have set off fire alarms to draw people out into the halls shortly after 2pm before he opened fire – and then managed to evade police by pretending to be a student running for cover. He was taken into custody an hour later.  

The families of 14 students and three employees previously reached a $25 million settlement with the Broward County school district in a lawsuit that had accused it of negligence.

Under Florida law, no single victim could collect more than $300,000 in a government settlement without approval from the State Legislature, but David Brill, the families’ attorney, said the parties worked out an arrangement so the families could collect the money without having to wait for that approval process.  

Cruz pleaded guilty to the mass murder last month and apologized to the victims’ families.

Cruz entered guilty pleas to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Now 23, Cruz was a 19-year-old expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioral issues at the time of the ‘premeditated’ killings, the Broward State’s Attorney Office said in court documents.

At the hearing in October, Cruz told the judge he was experiencing ‘anxiety,’ which she then said was ‘normal under the circumstances’.

In his apology to victims’ families he seemingly blamed pot for the deadly attack, saying that the ‘US would do better if everyone stopped smoking marijuana’.

‘I hate drugs and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana and doing all these drugs and causing racism and violence out in the streets,’ he added.

Cruz has previously admitted to using a lot of marijuana and had taken a lot of the prescription tranquilizer Xanax.

He told Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer that he understood that he would, in the best case scenario, spend life in prison or be sentenced to death, and would not be allowed to appeal his sentence. 

The gun violence on February 14, 2018, left 14 students and three staff dead and 17 others injured. 

At his sentencing Cruz asked whether he could address the victims and their families, who were pictured in court wearing shirts, pendants and jewelry in honor of their late loved ones.

‘May I take off my mask?’ he asked before saying: ‘I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it everyday.

‘If I were to get a second chance I would do everything in my power to help others.

‘I do not care if you don’t believe me,’ he told the court, adding that he now gets ‘nightmares sometimes… and can’t even watch TV anymore.’

Cruz held back tears as he said: ‘I hate drugs and I believe this country would do better if everyone would stop smoking marijuana… I’m trying my best to maintain my composure and I just want you to know that I’m really sorry.’

Back in 2018, the killer admitted to cops that he used a lot of marijuana and Xanax after being diagnosed as developmentally delayed at age three, according to government documents.

Cruz also revealed that on more than one occasion, he used substances to try to intentionally overdose.

He stared down at the podium Wednesday throughout the entirety of his statement. 

‘I know it’s your decision to decide whether I live or die,’ he said to the judge. 

‘What I meant was that I believe that they should have the right to choose – the victims – whether I take life or death,’ Cruz added, although he clarified to the judge that he understands the law, which says a jury will decide Cruz’s fate. 

The Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

On February 14, 2018, when then-19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, 17 people were killed, including three teachers. Another 17 were injured. 

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14 

Alyssa was a soccer player for Parkland Travel Soccer

Scott Beigel, 35

Biegel was a geography teacher who was killed as he tried to direct students back to his classroom when the shooting broke out

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Martin’s brother Miguel wrote on a GoFundMe page for his brother’s funeral expenses: ‘He was a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet’

Nicholas Dworet, 17 

Nicholas was a senior when he was killed. He had already been recruited onto the swim team at the University of Indianapolis 

Aaron Feis, 37 

Feis was shot and killed after throwing himself in front of students to protect them from bullets. He died from his gunshot wounds after being rushed to the hospital and undergoing emergency surgery 

Jamie Guttenberg, 14

Jamie’s father confirmed her death in a Facebook post that read: ‘My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school…I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this’

Chris Hixon, 49 

Hixon was the school’s athletic director and his wife told CNN that he was ‘an awesome husband, father and American’. Hixon was a Naval reservist and did a tour in Iraq in 2007

Luke Hoyer, 15 

Luke’s cousin told the local news station that he was ‘an amazing individual. Always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious, and so was his laugh’

Cara Loughran, 14 

Cara was an Irish dancer at a local dance studio, which posted on Facebook: ‘Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face’

Gina Montalto, 14 

Gina was a member of the school’s marching band as a winter guard. Her instructor said she ‘was the sweetest soul ever’ 

Joaquin Oliver, 17

Joaquin was born in Venezuela and moved to the US when he was three. He became a natural citizen one year before the shooting 

Alaina Petty, 14

Alaina was part of the school’s junior ROTC program – a leadership program taught by Army veterans

Meadow Pollack, 18

Meadow was a senior and had been accepted to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, at the time of her death 

Helena Ramsay, 17

Helena was planning to attend college in 2019. Her cousin wrote in a tribute: ‘We miss you dearly and are so incredibly sorry that your life was cut short’

Alex Schachter, 14 

Alex was a member of the high school’s marching band and orchestra where he played baritone and trombone. After his death his family set up a GoFundMe page to act as a scholarship fund in his memory

Carmen Schentrup, 16 

Carmen was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, which only 10 students had qualified for in 2018  

Peter Wang, 15 

Peter was a member of the school’s junior ROTC program and was reportedly looking forward to the Chinese New Year, which was two days after the massacre 

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Peter Wang, 15

(L-R) Carmen Schentrup, 16; Peter Wang, 15

 

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