WASHINGTON — Two years after the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, families whose loved ones died are filing multimillion dollar lawsuits against companies they say could have prevented it from happening.
Wednesday marks the second anniversary of the shooting in which military contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Navy Yard's Building 197 before being fatally shot by law enforcement. The day also is a legal deadline for filing wrongful death claims under DC law, and several families have filed lawsuits in the days ahead of the deadline.
The lawsuits allege that companies that oversaw Alexis' work knew or should have known about violent outbursts in his past. The lawsuits also say that the companies were aware of more recent troubling behavior, including that he heard voices, believed he had a chip implanted in his head, and thought people were following him and trying to keep him awake by using a machine to send vibrations into his body.
The lawsuits say the companies failed to warn the Navy that Alexis was a security risk and allowed him to retain clearance to access to the Navy Yard.
Online court records show three lawsuits were filed in federal court in Washington in the last week by the families of Sylvia Frasier, Kenneth Proctor and Arthur Lee Daniels Sr., all of whom died in the shooting. The Frasier family's lawsuit asks for at least $25 million. The Proctor family's lawsuit asks for at least $20 million. And the Daniels family's lawsuit seeks $10 million.
"Tragically, Alexis's shooting rampage was entirely preventable," wrote lawyers for the Daniels family.
Another three lawsuits, each for $10 million, were filed in D.C. Superior Court by Washington-based attorney David Schloss, who represents the families of John Roger Johnson, Frank Kohler and Richard Ridgell.
Peter Grenier, a Washington-based attorney for the Proctor family, said the cases will likely be consolidated for discovery and possibly for trial. He said that if the cases don't settle, he expects a trial would be a year and a half to two years away.
The lawsuits name as defendants Texas-based HP Enterprise Services LLC, a Department of Defense contractor, as well as its Florida-based subcontractor, The Experts Inc., the IT consulting firm for which Alexis worked. Two of the lawsuits also name the company that provided security at the Navy Yard building.
The lawsuits filed earlier this week join one case filed previously by the family of 51-year-old Mary Frances Delorenzo Knight, a Virginia resident and mother of two who also died in the shooting. Like the lawsuits filed this week, Knight's family sued both The Experts and HP Enterprise Services. Both companies have asked a judge to dismiss Knight's lawsuit, but the judge has not yet ruled. Sidney Matthew, a Florida-based attorney who represents the Knight family, said they are alleging that if The Experts and HP Enterprise Services "had done their job, this would not have happened."
A lawyer for The Experts, Mark Chopko, said in an e-mailed statement that he was aware of the lawsuits but would not have any comment before having the chance to review them. He called the shooting "a tragedy for all concerned." An HP spokeswoman said it is company policy not to comment on pending litigation. HP ended its contract with The Experts after the shooting.
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