CHICAGO — Survivors of the mass shooting at a suburban Chicago Independence Day parade and family members of those killed filed 11 lawsuits Wednesday against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the attack, accusing gun-maker Smith & Wesson of illegally targeting its ads at young men at risk of committing mass violence. The latest effort by dozens victims of the Highland Park shooting and anti-gun violence advocates, as well as private attorneys, to hold gun manufacturers responsible for a mass murder despite broad protections provided for the industry under federal law.
The group’s strategy is similar to the one used by the relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shootings. They reached a $73million settlement in February with the firearms company that manufactured the weapon used in that attack. That was believed to be the largest payment by a gun-maker related to a mass killing and hinged on the families’ accusation that Remington violated Connecticut consumer protection law by marketing its AR-15-style weapons to young men already at risk of committing violence.
” The shooter didn’t act alone,” stated Alla Lefkowitz (senior director of affirmative litigation at Everytown gun safety organization). “What happened in Highland Park on July 4 was the result of deliberate choices made by certain members of the industry.”
Liz Turnipseed is among the Highland Park survivors alleging that the gun manufacturer, the accused shooter, his father and two gun sellers bear some responsibility for the attack.
Turnipseed stated that she was enjoying the parade with her husband, 3-year-old daughter and pointing out instruments in high school band while talking to The Associated Press this week. Turnipseed was shot in the pelvis, and she remembers falling to the ground. She also recalls seeing her 3-year-old daughter’s stroller lying on its side and asking her husband for help to get her to safety.
Turnipseed said she required weeks of intense wound care, expects to need a cane for some time and is in therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. She also was forced to delay an embryo transfer scheduled for July 12; her doctors now fear it’s dangerous for her to become pregnant.
Despite her emotional and physical pain, the Highland Park resident was determined to speak out for those who were not able to survive mass shootings in America, especially the 19 teachers and children who were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde in Texas in May.
” I had the unique opportunity to put a face on what guns do to people, and… give it an honest perspective,” Turnipseed stated. Because there aren’t many of us who survive. Because they’re that deadly.”
Representatives for Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Survivors of the attack and family members of those killed spoke to reporters Wednesday, highlighting the dramatic changes in their lives since the shooting and repeatedly blamed the firearms producer for enabling the shooter.
Family members for three of the seven Highland Park victims — Stephen Straus and Jackie Sundheim — are suing. Eduardo Uvaldo’s family retained the Sandy Hook attorneys.
” The pain, loss, and grief we must endure are never ending,” Jon Straus (one of Straus’ sons) said at an event that announced the suits. “This time it wasn’t our family. Next time, it could be yours.”
Prosecutors have said Robert E. Crimo III admitted to the parade killings once police arrested him hours after the attack. Authorities have identified Smith & Wesson’s M&P semiautomatic rifle (which he used to fire at the parade) as the weapon he used.
Turnipseed argues that Smith & Wesson ads mimic the shooter’s-eye view popularized by video games, use misleading imagery of apparent military or law enforcement personnel and emphasize the M&P 15’s combat features — all with a dangerous appeal to “impulsive young men with hero complexes and/or militaristic delusions.”
Advertising text also billed the rifle as “capable of handling as many rounds as you are” and providing “pure adrenaline.” One ad shows the M&P 15 on a dark background above the phrase “kick brass” in a bold red font and capital letters. Her attorneys claim that Smith & Wesson knowingly promoted, advertised, and promoted their Rifle to civilians for illegal reasons, including carrying out offensive, military-style combat missions against perceived enemies.”
Ari Scharg is an attorney at the Chicago-based Edelson PC who represents Turnipseed. She said that lawyers for Highland Park victims are determined get their cases before a juror.
“There’s certainly a long path, and it’s an uphill battle,” Scharg said. “But I think this is the most important case in the country being litigated right now … and we’re going to see it through to the end.”
The victims also are suing the accused gunman for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress and his father, Robert Crimo Jr., for negligence, particularly for sponsoring his son’s application for a state firearms license in 2019 within months of the 19-year-old attempting to kill himself and threatening family members. Two gun sellers are charged with violating assault weapons bans in Highland Park, and the home of the accused gunman, Highwood.
Crimo II faces 21 charges of first-degree murder, 48 attempts to murder and 48 aggravated battery. These are the cases of those who were killed or injured during the Highland Park parade.
Lake County Prosecutors have not filed any criminal charges against his dad and have repeatedly declined the possibility that Crimo Jr. might be charged in future.
A Crimo Jr. attorney did not respond to a Wednesday comment request. Crimo III is represented in Lake County by the Lake County Public Defender’s Office, which does not comment about ongoing cases.
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