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Smith & Wesson sued over connection to 4th of July parade mass shooting in Highland Park

Survivors of the mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago and family members of those killed filed 11 lawsuits Wednesday against the maker of the gun used in the attack, charging arms maker Smith & Wesson from illegally targeting its advertisements at young men at risk of committing mass violence.

The sweeping effort by dozens of Highland Park shooting victims, gun violence advocates and private lawyers announced Wednesday is the latest attempt to hold gunmakers accountable for a massacre despite broad protections for the industry in federal law.

The group’s strategy reflects the approach used by relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school murderswhich in February reached a $73 million settlement with the firearms company that produced the rifle used in this attack. It was thought to be the largest payout from a gunmaker linked to a massacre and was based on the families’ accusation that Remington violated Connecticut’s consumer protection law by marketing its AR-15 weapons to young men already at risk of committing violence. .

“The shooter did not act on his own,” said Alla Lefkowitz, senior director of affirmative litigation for gun safety organization Everytown. “What happened at Highland Park on the 4th of July is the result of deliberate choices made by certain members of the industry.”

Liz Turnipseed is among the survivors at Highland Park, alleging the gunmaker, the accused shooter, his father and two gun dealers bear some responsibility for the attack.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Turnipseed said before the shots rang out that she was enjoying the parade with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, pointing to the instruments of the high school orchestra. Turnipseed fell to the ground after being shot in the pelvis and remembers seeing her daughter’s stroller on the side and asking her husband to get their daughter to safety.

Turnipseed said she needed weeks of intensive care for her wounds, expected to need a cane for some time and was undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. She was also forced to delay an embryo transfer scheduled for July 12; her doctors now fear it is dangerous for her to become pregnant.

People lay flowers and cards near a location where a mass shooting took place during the July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois on July 10, 2022.

Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Despite her physical and emotional burdens, the Highland Park resident has become determined to speak out on behalf of those who did not survive the mass shootings in the United States, especially the 19 children and two teachers killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, late May.

“I had a unique opportunity to help put a real face on what these guns do to people and…give it a first-person perspective,” Turnipseed said. “Because not many of us survive. Because they are mortal.”

Representatives for Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield, Mass., did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Wednesday.

Survivors of the attack and family members of those killed spoke to reporters on Wednesday, highlighting the dramatic changes in their lives since the shooting and repeatedly accusing the gunmaker of allowing the shooter.

Family members of three of the seven people killed in Highland Park – Stephen Straus, Jackie Sundheim and Nicolas Toledo – are among those suing. The family of a fourth victim, Eduardo Uvaldo, retained the lawyers who handled the Sandy Hook case.

“The pain, loss and grief that we have to endure never ends,” Jon Straus, one of Straus’ two sons, said at an event announcing the lawsuits. “This time it was our family. Next time it could be yours.

Prosecutors said Robert E. Crimo III admitted to the parade killings once police arrested him hours after the attack. Authorities identified the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle as the weapon he used to fire during the parade.

Turnipseed argues that Smith & Wesson’s advertisements mimic the shooter vision popularized by video games, use misleading imagery of military or law enforcement appearances, and emphasize the combat characteristics of the M&P 15 – the all with a dangerous appeal to “impulsive young men with hero complexes and/or militaristic delusions.”

The ad copy also touted the rifle as “capable of handling as many rounds as you can” and delivering “pure adrenaline”. An advertisement shows the M&P 15 against a dark background above the phrase “kick brass” in bold red font and capital letters.

“The advertisements and marketing tactics described above demonstrate that Smith & Wesson knowingly marketed, advertised and promoted the rifle to civilians for unlawful purposes, including to conduct offensive military-style combat missions against their perceived enemies” , say his lawyers.

Ari Scharg, an attorney with Chicago-based firm Edelson PC and representing Turnipseed, said Highland Park victims’ attorneys were determined to go further by putting their cases to a jury.

“There’s definitely a long way to go, and it’s an uphill battle,” Scharg said. “But I think this is the most important case in the country currently in litigation…and we’re going to see it through.”

Victims are also suing the accused shooter for assault and willful infliction of emotional distress and his father, Robert Crimo Jr., for negligence, specifically for sponsoring his son’s application for a state firearms license. in 2019 in the months following the 19th birthday. -old man attempting suicide and threatening his family members. Two gun dealers are charged with violating an assault weapons ban in Highland Park and the accused shooter’s hometown of Highwood.

Crimo III faces 21 counts of first degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery, representing those killed and injured at the parade in Highland Park.

Lake County prosecutors have not filed any criminal charges against his father and have repeatedly refused to discuss the possibility that Crimo Jr. could be charged in the future.

An attorney for Crimo Jr. did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Crimo III is represented by the Lake County Public Defender’s Office, which does not comment on pending cases.