Effort to Sue USAF Over Sutherland Springs Massacre Moving Slowly Forward

A legal setback for the attorneys representing the family of one of the victims of Sutherland Springs church massacre, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Lawyers from the Thomas J. Henry firm were asking a judge to allow them depose three people who apparently failed to upload the gunman's previous domestic violence conviction to a national gun buyer database.  But Judge Xavier Rodriguez shot down the special request, saying that all three people will be available if a lawsuit starts, and issued a warning to the government that they better be preserving evidence.

"The government is going to find itself in a very awkward position sound later they try to make claims that the information could have been available," he said.

Bringing legal action against the government is not an easy or quick process.  Retired JAG officer and current head of St. Mary's Center for Terrorism law Jeff Addicott says you may not sue the air force, which is part of the government, unless they consent under the federal torts claim act.

"And if you look at all the exceptions out there, one of them says that if someone does not perform their duty, and a tort follows, that's perhaps a way to sue them," he says.

Parties that want to sue have to submit their claims to the Federal Tort Claims administration.

In the case of the lawsuit against the estate of Devin Kelley, lawyers were concerned that memories would fade by the time any lawsuit is approved.  The assault by Kelley against his wife and the fracturing of his stepson's skull occurred in 2012. The government has conceded that their rules were not followed.  

In court, the government attorney says they have been talking to the three people as part of the administrative process and keeping notes.  One is a Tech Sergeant.  Another is a retired Special Agent in Charge.  The third is a retired Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. 

"The government has provided assurances that it is maintaining documents pursuant to the litigation hold," Judge Rodriguez said in his ruling.

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