In Legal Maneuver, MGM Resorts Sues Shooting Victims

The company sues more than 1,000 Las Vegas mass shooting victims in federal court, saying it cannot be held liable. An attorney for victims calls the move a “blatant display of judge shopping.”

MGM Resorts International has filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 Las Vegas mass shooting victims in an effort to avoid liability, reports the Las Vegas Review-JournalThe company, which owns Mandalay Bay and the Route 91 Harvest festival venue, argues that it cannot be held liable for Oct. 1 deaths, injuries or other damages, adding that any claims against MGM parties “must be dismissed. … “Plaintiffs have no liability of any kind to defendants.” The company cites a 2002 federal law that extends liability protection to any company that uses “anti-terrorism” technology or services that can “help prevent and respond to mass violence.”

In this case, the company argues that the security vendor MGM hired for the festival, Contemporary Services Corp., was protected from liability because its services had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security for “protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction.” MGM said the cases belong in federal court and that “Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.” Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglet, who has represented Oct. 1 victims, called the MGM action a “blatant display of judge shopping” that “quite frankly verges on unethical.” The FBI has not called the Las Vegas mass shooting an act of terrorism because the gunman had no clear motive, and the FBI defines terrorism as an act of terror associated with extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial or environmental nature. The gunman opened fire from his Mandalay Bay suite, killing 58 concertgoers and injuring hundreds of others.


Annapolis Shooter Wrote ‘Threatening’ Letters Last Week

Jarrod Ramos sent a letter to the AnnapolisCapital Gazette’s lawyer announcing that he planned to go there “with the objective of killing every person present.”

The man accused of fatally shooting five people in an Annapolis newsroom sent a letter to the Capital Gazette’s lawyer announcing that he planned to go there “with the objective of killing every person present,” the New York Times reports. In the letter — which is postmarked June 28, the day of the shooting — Jarrod Ramos formatted his remarks in such a way that the letter looks and reads much like a court document. Ramos, 38, had a long legal dispute with the paper over a 2011 column that detailed his harassment of a former high school classmate. The letter appears to blame the judiciary for being “too cowardly” to confront what he calls “lies.” In what appears to be a separate attachment, he writes directly to a judge who had heard his case against the newspaper: “Welcome,” he tells the judge, “to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died.”

Sgt. Jacklyn Davis of the Anne Arundel County Police Department said letters from Ramos were discovered by their recipients on Monday morning and reported to the police. In addition to the one sent to the newspaper’s law firm, one went to a Baltimore City courthouse and one to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. She described the letters as “threatening in nature.” Tom Marquardt, a former executive editor and publisher of the Capital Gazette who has reviewed one letter, said it showed that Ramos was a “cold, calculated killer.” He said, “It was fortunate that there weren’t more people killed.” Ramos’ high school classmate told NBC’s “Today” show that she had long been afraid that Ramos “could show up at any time and kill me.” He pleaded guilty to a charge of harassment in 2011 and was sentenced to probation. A judge ordered him to stay in therapy and not contact the woman.


Five Killed in Maryland Newspaper Shooting

A man with a vendetta against the Annapolis Capital Gazette fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors, killing five and injuring two others in a targeted shooting. The suspect had lost a defamation case against the paper over a 2011 column about his guilty plea to criminal harassment of a woman over social media.

A man with a vendetta against the Annapolis Capital Gazette fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors and at its employees, killing five and injuring two others Thursday in a targeted shooting, reports the Washington Post. It appeared to be the deadliest attack involving journalists in the US in decades. The suspect, who was captured, is Jarrod Ramos, 38. In 2015, he lost a defamation case against the paper over a 2011 column he contended defamed him. The column provided an account of Ramos’s guilty plea to criminal harassment of a woman over social media. He carried canisters with smoke grenades that he used inside the building. “This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people,” Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf said. “His intent was to cause harm.” Tom Marquart, a former editor and publisher at the newspaper, told the New York Times, “Jarrod Ramos has a long history of being angry and taking action against [the] newspaper. I said at one time to my attorneys that this was a guy that was going to come and shoot us.”

The victims included veteran columnist, editor, and journalism teacher Rob Hiaasen, 59, the brother of author and journalist Carl Hiaasen; Gerald Fischman, 61,  editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a sports reporter and editor; Wendi Winters, 65, a local news reporter and community columnist; and Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant. Police said the newsroom had recently received threats of violence through social media, although Ramos had not threatened the newspaper since 2013. “There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Gazette reporter Phil Davis said on Twitter. “It appears to be the act of a lone shooter,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said. “It does not appear to be a particularly well-planned operation.”


Few Mass Shooters Have Mental Health Issues: FBI

A new FBI study of 63 cases in which armed gunmen opening fire in public places found that most use guns they obtained legally and targeted specific victims. Mental health usually wasn’t an issue. “Offenders don’t snap,” said FBI expert Andre Simons.

A common element among attacks by armed gunmen opening fire in public places lies with the shooters, who are frequently motivated by grievances in their lives, wielding guns they obtained legally and targeting specific victims when they open fire, says an FBI study reported by the Washington Post. The study, which examined dozens of active shooters between 2000 and 2013, found that contrary to the public perception of the episodes as being fueled by mental health issues — an assertion frequently given voice by politicians, including President Trump — law enforcement officials were able to verify that only about 25 percent of the attackers had diagnosed mental health issues.

The attackers, almost always men or boys, typically attacked places that were familiar to them. They had acted in ways that concerned the people around them ahead of the attacks, with many expressing a desire to carry out violent acts. Most used guns they acquired legally, oftentimes buying the weapons specifically for their attacks, the study concluded. “Offenders don’t snap,” said Andre Simons of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, a co-author of the study. “They don’t wake up one morning and suddenly decide to attack.” Rather, the decision is part of “a long process,” Simons said. The study found that 77 percent of attackers spent a week or longer planning their violence, which “does take some forethought and design on the part of the offender,” he said. The study examined 63 cases, focusing on the shooters and the actions that led up to their attacks. Other research has found that most attacks came after people close to the shooters noticed worrisome behavior. “Some of these concerning behaviors do presage violence,” said James Silver, a criminal justice professor at Worcester State University, one of the FBI study’s three authors.


Should the Media Limit Coverage of Mass Shooters?

“When someone is desperate for fame or attention, committing a high-profile mass killing is one of the only guaranteed ways to get it,” criminologist Adam Lankford told a recent gathering of journalists. Responsible media, he argued, should guard against providing killers with a platform.

In the nearly two decades since two students committed a massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School, the news media have done extensive reporting on a long series of shooters at other schools and elsewhere.

More experts and victims are concluding that enough is enough, citing a growing body of evidence citing mass shooters who have said that a major goal of their acts is to achieve fame via news reports.

In an unusual session, one of the chief media critics, criminologist Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama, was invited to make his case last week to a major organization of journalists. He got a sympathetic reaction.

Last year, Lankford co-edited an issue of the journal American Behavioral Scientist titled “Media Coverage of Mass Killers: Content, Consequences, and Solutions.”

In it, academics and others argue that the media should be more careful about covering mass shooters.

“When someone is desperate for fame or attention,” Lankford says, “committing a high-profile mass killing is one of the only guaranteed ways to get it. In many cases, winning a Super Bowl or Academy Award garners less media attention than committing one of these crimes.”

Last fall, 149 academics joined in an open letter urging media organizations not to name or use photos of mass shooters, “stop using the names, photos, or likenesses of past perpetrators (and) report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired.”

In last week’s panel discussion at the annual convention of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), University of Missouri journalism Prof. Katherine Reed, herself a former journalist, worried that the media “may be making celebrities” out of mass killers, encouraging others to copy them.

Lankford quoted a series of shooters who indicated in statements made before their crimes that they were either “attention-seekers or copycats.”

Included was the shooter of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who said, “I’ll see you on national TV,” and the killer at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre, who called the local TV outlet News 13 during his attack and then checked online to see if he had “gone viral.”

The Parkland shooter said, “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am,” and the Santa Fe, Tx., school shooter explained that he wanted to “have his story told.”

It isn’t only a matter of seeking fame, Lankford said. By doing stories about each event that focus on how many people were killed in comparison with previous episodes, the media are encouraging shooters to set new records, he maintained.

The shooter in February in a Parkland, Fl., high school, for example, said that his goal was to kill at least 20 people. (He got close, killing 17.)

Lankford does not flatly contend that media should never give a shooter’s name, but he offered an option that the name be mentioned only in an initial story and not be reported in follow-up stories. “How often does the public need this information?” he asked at the meeting with journalists.

Media organizations should not be expected to suppress shooters’ names, Lankford said, but he suggested that after reporting on the initial shooting, media outlets might confine information about the shooter to one page of their websites and not repeatedly mention it in follow-up stories.

Dawn Clapperton, senior producer for investigations at WTVJ, the NBC television affiliate in Miami, which covered the Parkland shooting, said that the station’s staff has had internal discussions about taking care to use appropriate words in describing mass shootings and showing sensitivity to victims in covering such events.

Clapperton said her station decided to use the word “massacre” sparingly, for example.

Lisa Cianci, news content director at the Orlando Sentinel, led coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed. The coverage was intensive, with 48 stories in the first 24 hours after the event, covering nine pages in print. The newspaper also produced 26 videos.

The newspaper “kept the victims in the forefront,” writing obituaries on each of them, Cianci said, and did not show the shooter’s photo on its front page.

Lankford contends that important details about a mass shooting, including who
committed the attack (age, sex, race, religion, background, mental health, criminal record, behavior, etc.) does not require publishing the perpetrator’s name or face.

He contends that limiting identification of the shooter is consistent with the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which calls on media to “balance the public’s need for information against potential harms” and to avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

Lankford says that “denying mass shooters de facto celebrity status and
widespread fame does not require keeping their names completely confidential.”

He notes that the names of shooters still will be a matter of public record and widely known, including by witnesses, families, and local community members.

One unofficial experiment took place this year in after a Kentucky school shooting, when the news media withheld the offender’s name for several weeks because he was only 15 years old.


Tabloids cover mass shootings. Photo by scleroplex via Flickr

Lankford contends that the absence of a name “didn’t limit the depth or quality of coverage,” He says that some news outlets ran video footage of his arrest (in which his face was blurred out) and interviews of classmates who described his personality and behavior in detail.

No media representative offered a detailed rebuttal of Lankford at the journalists’ discussion last week, but Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute has contended that it is legitimate for the media to name mass shooters.

McBride says that, “When you name an individual and tell his story, you give people important context for the backstory,” and that “knowing who was behind the gun allows us to identify trends,” such as that most mass acts of violence have been committed by young white males.”

Naming the shooter also can prevent misinformation, she says, recalling that after the 2012 Newton, Ct., school shooting, some media outlets misidentified the shooter as his brother.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. He welcomes readers’ comments.


Faith Salves Texas Town Where 26 Died in Church Shooting

Seven months after the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, the tiny town is still struggling to cope. “It just shined a light on who we always were,” said one resident. “And we’re the community that focuses on God and has always before this.” reports on how Sutherland Springs, Texas, is coping seven months after a former serviceman stormed the First Baptist Church there to carry out one of the worst mass murders in recent U.S. history. The town 35 miles southeast of San Antonio is on the mend but still struggling with loss. Seemingly no one there, even those who weren’t in the church that Sunday morning, went untouched by Devin Patrick Kelley’s Nov. 5 attack. He killed 26 people, nearly half of them children, and wounded about 20 others. People there say the story of Sutherland Springs is not only a tale of suffering and upturned lives. It’s also the story of a tiny but unbreakable community where neighbors have helped neighbors walk the long road back.

“Nov. 5 did not define Sutherland Springs,” said Stephen Willeford, the 55-year-old Sutherland Springs resident who exchanged gunfire with the assailant, ultimately putting an end to the bloodshed. “It just shined a light on who we always were. We’re the community that pulls together and has always. And we’re the community that focuses on God and has always before this.” The town’s resilience is rooted in unbridled Christian faith. “We are a people who trust the Lord and pull ourselves up,” says First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy. “Not by our own bootstraps, as the old saying goes, but … up by God’s bootstraps.”


Man Kills Four Children, Himself in Orlando Apartment

After a nearly 24-hour standoff, police discovered that four children had been killed by a man suspected of shooting a police officer.

A nearly 24-hour standoff at an Orlando apartment complex ended in tragedy late Monday with the discovery that four children had been killed by a man suspected of shooting a police officer, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Authorities identified the gunman as 35-year-old Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr., a felon who was on probation for arson and other charges. Police Chief John Mina said Lindsey had apparently shot the children he had taken as hostages — ages 1, 6, 10 and 11 — before taking his own life.

Sandi Marti planned to spend her day Tuesday, which marks two years since the massacre that claimed 49 lives at Pulse nightclub in 2016, at the Pulse memorial with her wife, Carry. Instead, the couple started a memorial of their own. They live across from the complex where the four children were killed. They took balloons and hearts and set them near the apartment Tuesday morning. They said they heard three gunshots and saw flashes of light Monday night. The standoff began after officers responded about 11:45 p.m. Sunday to a woman who reported being battered by Lindsey. The woman had fled the second-story apartment to a nearby restaurant to call police. Officers tried to arrest Lindsey at the apartment when a shootout began. Officer Kevin Valencia was wounded and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was in critical condition after surgery but expected to survive. Two of the children found dead are believed to be Lindsey’s, while the others are believed to belong to the domestic violence victim.


Who Else Could’ve Stopped the Parkland Massacre?

While school resource officer Scot Peterson has been under intense scrutiny for not stopping the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, another gun expert says that credible messengers could be used in schools to prevent mass shootings.

Scot Peterson, then the school resource officer in Parkland, FL, waited outside while students at Stoneman Douglas High School were being shot in February, sparking national outrage, including a tweet from President Trump condemning his cowardly actions.

Peterson has issued a public apology and explanation for not going inside the school. “I didn’t get it right,” Peterson admitted. “But it wasn’t because of some, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into that building. Oh, I don’t want to face somebody in there.’ It wasn’t like that at all.”

Peterson said he never thought the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was targeting students and staff inside — even though school shootings have become tragically common, even though he had trained school staffers on how to respond to an active shooter, and even though he said over the radio at one point that he heard shots “by, inside the 1200 building” reported NBC News.

“It haunts me that I didn’t know,” he said. “I was trying to do the best I could with no information or intel at the time. … And it was just something happening so fast.”

But is Peterson the only individual who could have stopped the mass shooting?

“There shouldn’t be a need for a ‘Scot Peterson’ in the first place” said Hailey Nolasco, an expert on guns in schools, told The Crime Report.

Nolasco, from the New York City Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun violence, argued that another kind of person could help prevent a school tragedy– a credible messenger.

Credible messengers are individuals who have experienced gun violence in their own lives, and go into schools to relate to troubled young children about the dangers and consequences of violence.

A credible messenger could detect, and stop, a troubled student, such as Nicholas Cruz (Parkland, FL shooter) from shooting up a school, Nolasco noted.

In New York City, credible messengers have been placed in all five boroughs and work for the Crisis Management System, a program started by Mayor Bill de Blasio to reduce gun violence.

A credible messenger is someone who may have been in prison for using guns, Nolasco said. “These individuals are sent out into the community to mediate conflicts and instead of retaliation.”

By relying on credible messengers in the schools, there is less of an emphasis on law enforcement, such as school resource officers, Nolaso argued.

While the Crisis Management System has been implemented in high risk schools in New York, the program is applicable to schools across the U.S., Nolasco said.

“Credible messengers should be in every school. That would be amazing to have as part of public safety approach to reducing violence in general because they are relatable and a safe place for young people to be able to voice what’s going on in their lives.”

While Nolasco believed Peterson was wrong staying outside the school and saying he ‘didn’t know what was happening,’ she argued having other resources in schools could have prevented the massacre.

For Peterson, he plays February 14 over and over in his head. He cringes when his name is mentioned on the news or in headlines, and he obsessively replays the day’s events, he told the Washington Post. He worries when he shows his identification somewhere that he’ll be recognized.

According to Nolasco, society should start thinking from a preventive side instead of a reactive one.

“We need to look for the signs from shooters” she concluded.

“Look for someone is withdrawn let them know they are supported.”

Megan Hadley is a reporter for The Crime Report. 


‘Red Flag’ Laws Have an Impact, But Not on Mass Murder

Laws that allow authorities to take guns from those considered dangerous to themselves or others have affected suicide rates but there is no evidence yet that they prevent homicides, much less mass murders.

Four mass shootings since last October, each with double-digit death tolls, has everyone searching for solutions. One goal that apparently most can support, regardless of their position on the gun-control/gun-rights continuum, is taking firearms away from those who are considered dangerous to themselves or others, criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University writes in USA Today.  >Before February’s school shooting in Parkland, Fl., six states had extreme risk or “red flag” laws. Since then, given the signs of trouble exhibited by the gunman Nikolas Cruz, as many as 32 states have passed or are considering similar measures, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. The list of possibles includes the gun-friendly state of Texas.

A new study found that long-standing statutes in Indiana and Connecticut have resulted in substantial reductions in suicide compared with trends in other states. Lead author Aaron Kivisto of the University of Indianapolis says there were 7.5 percent fewer suicides in Indiana over the decade following the law’s passage in 2005. Connecticut’s 1999 statute was associated with a 13.7 percent reduction in firearm suicides after the Virginia Tech massacre, when enforcement was greatly enhanced. These laws have saved lives, but not necessarily the lives for which they were intended. No research has surfaced to assess the impact of risk-based firearm seizure laws in preventing homicide, much less mass murder. Domestic violence has sometimes escalated following the issuance of a restraining order. Similarly, an attempt by a frightened party to have guns taken from their threatening spouse or irrational child can precipitate the very violent act that confiscation is designed to prevent. Ironically, the crimes that generate the most passion for gun control are the least likely to be affected. Mass killers are nothing if not determined. Should their guns be confiscated, they can find ways to acquire another.


Insurers Getting More Business After Mass Shootings

Worried schools, private firms, stadiums and government agencies are buying active shooter policies to protect themselves from big damage bills.

After every mass shooting, more calls come in to insurers, from private companies, from large stadiums, and from government agencies and public schools, reports Governing. “We probably have seen a tenfold increase in inquiries since Parkland,” says Paul Marshall, an insurance broker for Ohio-based McGowan Program Administrators. “People just feel vulnerable when [a shooting] happens.” Since the Parkland, Fl., school attack, at least seven South Florida school districts have purchased $3 million worth of “active shooter” coverage from McGowan. The FBI says the average number of active shooter events per year jumped from 6.4 between 2000 and 2006 to 16.4 in the period from 2007 to 2013. The FBI defines them as cases in which an individual is actively engaged in attempting to kill people in a populated area. They claimed 1,043 lives between 2000 and 2013. More than one third of incidents occurred on government property, including schools.

Aside from the loss of life and the pain these events inflict on a community, deadly shootings have financial costs that can be difficult for governments, especially small or struggling municipalities, to bear. The tangible costs alone can overwhelm a government: litigation, compensating victims, paying for funerals, providing trauma counseling, reconstructing or refurbishing buildings, and investing in new security measures to prevent another attack, to name a few. The impact of intangible costs to a community — reputational damage, loss of tourism revenue and high turnover among workers — is impossible to measure. Insurer Marshall says general liability policies typically have a “duty to defend” clause, meaning that they require a lawsuit to activate coverage.  In contrast, active shooter policies go into effect as soon as a person commits a targeted attack. Coverage pays for a host of associated expenses, including victim expenses, particularly medical bills; agency costs, like extra security and business income losses; and liability costs for lawsuits.