Florida high school shooting victims to get $33.6m payout

A gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb 14, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

FLORIDA (NYTIMES) - The families of the 17 people who were fatally shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, and nearly three dozen others who were wounded or traumatised, have reached a US$25 million (S$33.6 million) settlement with the Broward County school district, a lawyer representing some of the families said on Tuesday (Oct 19).

The largest portion of the settlement will be divided equally among the families of 14 students and three staff members who were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb 14, 2018, said the lawyer, Mr David Brill.

Mr Brill did not disclose how much each family would receive or say how the rest of the money would be divided.

The settlement, which was reported by The South Florida Sun Sentinel, was confirmed as Nikolas Cruz, the former student who was accused of carrying out the shooting, was preparing to plead guilty on Wednesday to 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

The rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is one of the deadliest shootings in American history. In addition to the 17 people who were killed, 17 others were wounded. The settlement, Mr Brill said in a statement, "provides a measure of justice and accountability" to the victims and their families.

The settlement had been the subject of two years of closed-door discussions by the Broward County school board, The Sun Sentinel reported. The school district said in a statement that it had no comment because there "continues to be pending litigation".

Florida law prohibits any single victim from collecting more than US$300,000 in a government settlement without approval from the state Legislature. But Mr Brill said the parties worked out an arrangement so the families could collect the money without having to wait for that approval process.

In addition to the families of the 17 people who were killed, payments would be made to 16 of the 17 who were injured, and to 19 people who had severe trauma as a result of the shooting, Mr Brill said.

"The settlement is fair and, frankly, remarkable," Mr Brill said.

One former student, Mr Anthony Borges, who was shot several times in his legs, lungs and abdomen, was not included in the settlement. His lawyer Alex Arreaza said Mr Borges was seeking a larger payment to cover the cost of the lifelong care for his injuries.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, students who had grown up in an era of "active-shooter" drills and lockdowns, organised a series of school walkouts and rallies demanding tougher gun control laws and an end to gun violence.

Some of the marches were led by teenagers who had survived the Parkland shooting and who quickly emerged as the leaders of a generation of young activists.

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