SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Survivors and family members of victims of a deadly church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, two years ago are consolidating their lawsuits against Academy Sports + Outdoors. They claim the business is illegally selling high-capacity assault weapons. Each of the 56 people is asking for more than $1 million, reported KXAN.
On Nov. 5, 2017, Devin Kelley fired at worshippers at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. As a result, 26 people and an unborn baby were murdered. Another 20 individuals received injuries.
Two citizens chased down the gunman after massive bloodshed had occurred. One of the men who said he helped run the shooter off the road was hailed as a hero for potentially preventing more casualties after the deadly shooting.
Shortly after the mass shooting, Johnnie Langendorff said he decided to track down the killer after seeing the gunman, Devin Kelley, exchanging fire with another member of the community. That person reportedly shot Kelley during the encounter.
“The shooter used a gun illegally obtained from Academy,” according to a release about the consolidated lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday.
The sport goods company requested victims’ earlier lawsuits be dismissed. However, on Feb. 4 a judge denied that request. As a result, a jury will decide “whether Academy Sports + Outdoors will be forced to follow existing gun laws and end the practice of selling high capacity assault rifles to visitors from states that ban them, as well as whether Academy is responsible for damages.”
This case could have tremendous impact as gun purchasers visit states like Texas in order to purchase firearms without restrictions that are in place in their home state.
The lawsuit claims the Katy, Texas-based chain broke federal law when it sold the Sutherland Springs shooter a Ruger AR-556, a gun that is illegal in his state of residence. At the time, the shooter listed his address on a Firearms Transaction Record as being in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Colorado, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Virginia, and Washington all have laws that don’t allow people to own high capacity assault-style weapons. Hence, the lawsuit claimed Academy Sports + Outdoors has also sold similar weapons to people in those states.
In December 2017, the family of three victims filed a lawsuit against Academy Sports + Outdoors seeking $25 million in damages. Family members of victims have also sued the United States Air Force, claiming the military branch failed to report the shooter’s criminal history to an FBI database used in gun buyer background checks.