SANTA FE, Texas — The families of the Santa Fe High School shooting victims have reached a settlement with the online seller that sold the 17-year-old shooter the ammunition he allegedly used, lawyers announced on Thursday.
According to Everytown Law, the firm representing several families of the victims, the settlement will require online ammunition seller LuckyGunner, LLC and a related company, Red Stag Fulfillment, LLC, to verify the age of customers for all ammunition sales.
The family of one of the victims, Sabika Aziz Sheikh, said they hope this settlement sends a message to other online sellers.
"Nothing will ever bring Sabika back," Sabika's mother, Farah Naz, said. "It’s your responsibility to prevent your products from ending up in the wrong hands.”
In the shooting rampage at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018, Sabika, Cynthia Tisdale, Chris Stone, Ann Perkins, Christian Riley Garcia, Shana Fisher, Jared Black Kim Vaughan, Kyle McLeod and Angelique Ramirez were killed.
"Sabika’s killer should never have been able to go online and buy ammunition with a few clicks,” Sabika's father, Abdul Aziz, said. "I rest easier knowing that this settlement agreement will prevent future illegal sales."
Everytown Law's senior director of affirmative litigation, Alla Lefkowitz, said requiring age verification to buy ammunition is a "no-brainer."
"It simply should not be possible for a minor to go online and have ammunition shipped to their house (with) no questions asked," Lefkowitz said. "Other online sellers should follow LuckyGunner’s lead and implement age verification processes."
The lawsuit claims it took the shooter less than two minutes to complete two transactions.
According to the families' lawyers, anyone who cannot verify they are 21 or older will not be able to buy ammunition online under the age verification system.
KHOU 11 legal analyst Carme Roe called the settlement a "great result for the families."
"It sends a message to the community that we’re going to hold not just sellers of guns but sellers of ammunition accountable for the deadly result that we see every day on the news," Roe said.
She said she believes it could even raise the standard across the board for ammunition sales, especially online.
"I also think it likely could lead to legislation, either state or federal legislation, that will change the way that these companies are permitted to sell guns and ammunition, particularly online, when they’re not verifying who they’re selling to and the age of the buyer," Roe said.
LuckyGunner issued the following statement about the settlement:
"The firearms and ammunition industry has been attacked for many years by well-funded anti-Second Amendment groups who travel the country using the courts to promote their agenda. Following the tragic events of a 2018 shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, Everytown Law, financed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, saw an opportunity to launch such an attack on Lucky Gunner.
"The lawsuit that Everytown Law spearheaded against Lucky Gunner was recently dismissed and settled. Lucky Gunner followed all laws in completing the sales giving rise to the dismissed suit, a fact confirmed by plaintiff and victim of the shooting, Trent Beazley.
"'Upon reflection and review of the facts, I believe that Lucky Gunner did not break a law,' Beazley said.
"Lucky Gunner is an industry leader in promoting gun safety, legal compliance, and customer service. It is expected that anti-Second Amendment activists will falsely claim this lawsuit resulted in changes to business practices in the gun industry.
"However, according to Jake Felde, Chief Executive Officer of Lucky Gunner, 'We didn't agree to do anything we weren't already doing. We'll continue investing in a world class experience for American gun owners. We want ammo sales to be secure, convenient, and cost-effective for every law-abiding American.'"
Attorney Clint McGuire, who represented several families in the case, refuted LuckyGunner's statement in a news conference on Friday.
"This case was not funded by Michael Bloomberg. And while we did, in this case, have the pleasure of working with Everytown, and they were a very vital part of our team, this case was filed by me to start of with," McGuire said. "My wife and I funded this case. Our kids were at this school, my son and daughter, when this shooting happened. And so we felt like it was the right thing to do to get involved with this case."
Family members of victims also spoke at the news conference.
"Today's a huge milestone for us all," said Scott Rice.
Rice said his wife, Flo, was shot six times that day. He spoke about how it felt that the shooter was ruled once again incompetent to stand trial.
"This was not a huge shock to us, but it was another time that the Band-Aid was ripped off and salt was poured in the wound," he said. "Nearly five years have gone by with no hope of ever going to trial. Five years for families that lost a loved one and five years that the survivors, like Flo, had no answers."
Rice said since the case is still open, autopsy reports and information about what happened are not available.
"There is a bill right now presented by our senator, Mayes Middleton, that would allow the loved ones or survivors of a murder or attempted murder to see the evidence of the crime without tainting the prosecution's case," Rice said. "This bill is number SB 435 and we thank you for writing it and we wholeheartedly support it."
Rhonda Hart, who lost her daughter Kimberly in the shooting, said she still doesn't know the specifics of how she died.
"I wrote a letter to the medical examiner and I asked for the official report and I got back a Xerox copy of a form letter with no sympathy, no empathy, no 'I'm sorry,' no 'dear Rhonda,' no nothing," Hart said. "It said, 'You are not entitled to this information because of this case law and that case law and this number and that number,' and it was dreadful."
She said Texas law prevents them from getting that information from the medical examiner for as long as the case is open.
"I still don't officially know if Kimberly was shot from the behind, or from the front, or with what weapons and at what time," Hart said. "I know generally where she was sitting but that's it. And so if we got those reports it would just give us a sense of closure."
Below is the documentary KHOU 11 produced one year after the Santa Fe school shooting.