Uvalde’s mother sues police, Georgia gun maker over school massacre

The last conversation Sandra Torres had with her 10-year-old daughter revolved around her nervous excitement about making the All-Star softball team. Hours later, Eliahna Torres was one of 19 children and two teachers massacred at their elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

With little closure and few responses to law enforcement’s 77-minute wait May 24 in the school hallway rather than confront the shooter, Sandra Torres filed a federal lawsuit Monday against police, the school district and the manufacturer of the gun that the shooter used.

“My baby never made it out of school,” she said. “There is no accountability or transparency. Nothing is done.”

The lawsuit alleges that the city, school district and several police departments “completely failed” to follow active shooter protocols and violated victims’ constitutional rights by “barricading” them in two classrooms with the killer for more than an hour ” to have. The city, school district and police did not immediately respond for comment.

Torres is assisted by the legal arm of the group Everytown for Gun Safety. Her suit also names the maker of the AR-style semi-automatic rifle that Salvador Ramos used to fire more than 100 rounds in the horrific mass shooting.

The lawsuit is part of a new and growing legal front in the nationwide firearms court battle. While gun manufacturers are typically immune under federal law from lawsuits alleging crimes committed with their products, families of victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut have reached a $73 million settlement with Remington, the manufacturer of the weapon used, achieved shooting a decade ago.

The settlement came after victims successfully argued that the marketing lawsuit was an exception to the federal immunity measure under state law.

The new Uvalde lawsuit alleges that Daniel Defense’s marketing tactics violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by negligently using militaristic imagery, product placement in combat video games and social media to target “vulnerable and violent young men,” Eric Tirschwell said, Executive Director at Everytown Law.

“It was no coincidence that he went from never firing a gun to carrying a Daniel Defense AR-15,” Tirschwell said, citing the findings of a report prepared by a Texas House of Representatives investigative committee. “We intend to prove that Daniel Defense’s marketing was a significant factor in the decisions Ramos made.”

The Black Creek, Georgia-based company didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment, but in a congressional hearing over the summer, CEO Marty Daniels called the shooting of Uvalde and others who like it “purely evil” and ” deeply disturbing”. Still, he separated the guns themselves from the violence, saying mass shootings in America are local issues that need to be solved locally.

Everytown is also part of a similar lawsuit following a shooting attack on parade-goers in Highland Park, Illinois, based on a state law. If arguments based on federal law succeed, it could open up costly civil lawsuits for gun manufacturers as the nation grapples with escalating gun violence and a brutal spate of mass shootings.

“It would be an important step forward to hold gun manufacturers accountable when their marketing crosses a line,” Tirschwell said.

The case also names the gun shop where Ramos purchased the gun used in the shooting, along with another AR-15 and ammunition, as thousands of dollars worth of purchases, even though only one gun was used in the shooting. A patron later told the FBI he “looked like … a school gunman,” according to the Texas House of Representatives report.

The July report found nearly 400 law enforcement officers rushed to the mass shooting, but “egregiously poor decision-making” led to more than an hour of chaos before the gunman was finally confronted and killed. It criticized state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as local authorities, for not following active shooter training and putting their own safety over victims’ lives.

Another parent whose child was wounded in the shooting and two parents whose children were on campus at the time filed the first lawsuit related to the Uvalde shooting in late September.

For Sandra Torres, the case is also another way to find answers to the botched police response.

“They did nothing for 77 minutes. Nothing at all,” she said. “She’ll never know what it’s like to get married, graduate, go to her first prom… never forget their faces.”