Victims’ family members said that an “unlicensed firearms dealer” in Texas sold the Odessa-Midland shooter an AR-style rifle–after he’d failed a background check for being mentally unfit.
Victims of last year’s mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, have filed a lawsuit against a gun parts manufacturer and supplier.
NewsWest9 reports that the lawsuit is spearheaded by the families of Leilah Hernandez and Joseph Griffith. Both were killed during the shooting, which took place across the Odessa-Midland area as the gunman drove from site to site, firing at strangers from inside his car.
Together, the families are seeking over $1 million in damages against Kentucky-based Anderson Manufacturing.
Anderson, says the lawsuit, sold firearms and firearm accessories to an “unlicensed dealer of weapons.”
“Anderson Manufacturing was obligated to exercise reasonable care in selling firearms so as to never needless endanger the public by arming prohibited or otherwise dangerous purchasers,” said attorney John Sloan, who is representing both families in the case.
According to NewsWest9, Sloan and the families’ lawsuit names the “unlicensed dealer of weapons” as Marcus Anthony Braziel.
Braziel purportedly sold 36-year old Seth Aaron Ator—a Lorena, Texas, resident who had lost his job the morning of the shooting—a semi-automatic, AR-15-style weapon.
Ator had tried to purchase a firearm from a dealer but failed the requisite background check, as he had earlier been ruled mentally unfit.
WWLP notes that Braziel—also listed as a defendant—was targeted by federal officials after the shooting. Brazilen’s residence was raided by authorities, who pulled two dozen firearms from his home.
Sloan said that he and his clients want to hold Anderson Manufacturing and Braziel responsible for supplying weapons and ammunition to a man who should not have been able to obtain either.
“Our clients want to hold accountable those who manufactured, profited from, and supplied the AR-style weapon used in the shooting,” Sloan said.
“They hope to impose accountability for the negligence of the defendants that might prevent future gun violence and future gun deaths in Texas and beyond,” Sloan added.
Joseph Griffith’s sister, Carla Byrne, said she would rather see Braziel held accountable than receive money.
“I would much rather [Braziel] be in jail today, but he can’t,” Byrne said during a Thursday press conference. “He’s not in jail, so this is the second best thing.”
“Justice is such a term of fluidity, right?” she asked. “None of this will ever bring my brother back. My brother will never walk his daughter down the aisle. There are so many things my brother had [in] life [that were] stolen from him.”
However, it remains to be seen how, exactly, Braziel might be held accountable—and under which statutes. KCBD11 observes that Sloan, during the same press conference, said that Braziel does not appear to have broken any laws in selling a firearm to Ator, as private firearm sales are sometimes exempt from background check requirements. Nevertheless, Sloan and victims’ families say that Braziel was “clearly negligent” in allowing Ator to buy a semi-automatic rifle.
Brazviel, for his part, appears to have argued that he was not an unlicensed firearms dealer—rather, he claims the dozens of guns seized from his home were all part of his wife’s inheritance.