Victim of Aurora Shooting Sues Illinois State Police Over FOID Issuance Error

aurora henry pratt shooting lawsuit illinois state police

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

If you’ll remember, the man who shot up the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois was issued an Illinois Firearms Owner ID Card despite having a felony record. He then used the FOID card to purchase the gun he used to murder five people. Five police officers were injured in the a shoot-out before the shooter was killed.

Now a Pratt employee who was injured in the shooting has sued the Illinois State Police, the agency that issued the FOID card.

While individual police officers are generally covered by sovereign immunity, it is possible to sue state agencies such as the Illinois State Police. According to nolo.com:

In Illinois, an injured person can bring a claim against the state if he or she is injured by a state employee or agency, as long as the same claim would be available if it were brought against a private individual or company.

What does this mean? For example:

  • A person hit by a car driven by a government employee may file a claim under the Court of Claims Act, just as a private individual could bring a car accident lawsuit against another driver.
  • Premises liability claims may be filed if a dangerous condition on government property causes injuries and those in charge of the property were on proper notice of the problem.
  • Claims for medical negligence may be filed against workers at state hospitals, clinics, and similar facilities.
  • Many other claims that arise from negligence, or the failure to use reasonable care when exercising a duty toward another, can also be filed against the state of Illinois under the Court of Claims Act.

Here’s the AP’s story on the lawsuit:

CHICAGO (AP) — One of the people injured in a deadly warehouse shooting last month sued Illinois State Police on Friday, saying authorities wrongly let the gunman purchase the weapon used in the attack.

Henry Pratt Co. employee Timothy Williams is seeking $2 million, claiming pain, suffering, disability and lost earnings. According to the lawsuit, he was shot three times after colleague Gary Martin opened fire, killing five other co-workers. Williams still has two bullets lodged in his back.

“Mr. Martin would have never possessed the firearm he used at the Henry Pratt Company mass shooting had the Illinois State Police properly followed and implemented their internal protocols intended to keep firearms out of the hands of citizens who meet certain criteria deemed by the legislature in the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act to be unfit for ownership of a firearm,” the lawsuit states.

Martin was killed in shootout with police. His state gun license permit was revoked in 2014, but authorities say he never gave up the handgun he used in the Feb. 15 shooting. The Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois State Police declined comment, saying they don’t discuss pending litigation.

State police officials have released records showing weaknesses in state law and federal databases that are used to screen firearm purchases. Among the records, state police said more than 75 percent of the people who received gun license revocations last year in Illinois ignored the notices.

In Martin’s case, state police said an “exhaustive search” failed to find Martin’s returned Firearm Owners Identification Card or a document detailing how to relinquish the gun.

Since the shooting, state police officials announced several reforms designed to make it harder for people to keep guns after losing their right to own a firearm.

comments

  1. avatar pwrserge says:

    Lol… I’m going to enjoy them explaining why they didn’t go pick someone up when they had his signature over a confession to a class 2 felony.

    1. avatar A O says:

      If we didn’t have FOID, this lawsuit could have been avoided.

      1. avatar Ragnar says:

        Yep. All of this can be avoided with Constitutional Carry.

    2. avatar binder says:

      Because almost no one is busted for that.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        So why do we have the FOID act then? What legitimate purpose does it serve?

        1. avatar Roger J says:

          If you can’t register the guns then you register the gun owners. Go to the owners home and you will find the gun(s) for confiscation. It’s also a tax on firearm ownership.

    3. avatar frank speak says:

      expect a quiet cash settlement…the only weakness is the assumption that he NEVER would have gotten a gun… as long as the back alleys of chicago remain an easy place to acquire one…

      1. avatar JW says:

        Exactly.

        I can see the state of Illinois argue that a foid card violation is not pertinent in this situation since most criminals can still get guns by theft or straw purchase.

        A large money settlement will be offered quickly in hushed tones.

        Nothing to see or to hear here.

    4. avatar KennyPowers says:

      Because people commit felonies every day and most probably don’t get busted for it. In my State you steal certain items (such as a fire extinguisher or…..a stop sign), or for a total value of $300 or more, it’s a felony. Leaving the scene of an incident involving injury (it can be minor) is a felony. Possession of THC oil is a felony. Causing $1,000 or more damages (intentional) is a felony. Driving under the influence can be a felony.

  2. avatar GS650G says:

    The price for making a mistake can be high. They better make it real hard for anyone else to have guns just to be sure. We are seeing that philosophy.

  3. avatar strych9 says:

    It’s too bad that even when you sue the right people in cases like this you’re really just suing the taxpayers.

    Either way, I wish the guy luck. If nothing else this might send a message to LE organizations that they might want to oppose laws they could easily be sued for failing to enforce and for which such a failure would be easy.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      And the easy solution to fix that (tax payers footing the bill for lawsuits): pay these settlements/judgements out of police unions’ pension funds.

      1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

        Should be criminal penalties also. Seems it should be at least a negligent homicide charge.

      2. avatar A O says:

        The police unions did not enact this law, it was the lawmakers; they should be footing this lawsuit. Hopefully that would discourage them from making garbage laws like FOID.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      You typically cannot sue the police for failing to enforce the law. Think about restraining orders. You can’t sue the popo when the BF violates it, or fails to arrest hm when he does. You’ve heard it all here before–the police do NOT owe a LEGAL duty to come to your aid or to enforce the law.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        This may be a way he gets past the historical and legal precedent or it may not be.

        Hence why I wish him luck.

      2. avatar No one of consequence says:

        But this isn’t them failing to do something. It’s them doing something – issuing the FOID card – that they shouldn’t have done.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          That’s a good point but I think what Mark N is saying here is that the lawyers defending the police will likely argue that any actions they take or fail to take fall under “no duty to protect” insofar as they cannot be held liable for the results regardless of if those those results ensue from actions or inactions. When they allow harm to come to a citizen the method of allowance doesn’t matter.

          In other words, I suspect their argument will be “no duty to protect” covers inaction as well as incompetence and action. In essence that the way they failed to protect doesn’t matter because they have no duty to do so in the first place.

        2. avatar A O says:

          Strych9,

          I believe his argument is the ISP gave him permission to purchase a firearm by issuing the FOID, although he should have been restricted from doing such. If they had done nothing, he would have never been issued the FOID, therefore no dealer in IL could have legally sold him a firearm.

        3. avatar strych9 says:

          AO:

          Yeah, I get that. I’m simply saying I think the police department’s defense is going to be that what they did or didn’t do doesn’t matter because they had no duty to do the right thing in the first place.

        4. avatar binder says:

          He was not in the Illinois system. They ONLY fond out about it after they ran his prints, when the did that they revoked the FOID. The should be suing his home state too

        5. avatar DDay says:

          They can’t just be incompetent, it has to be done with malice. Gov’t writes laws that protect themselves from lawsuits. Sadly this will be dismissed.

        6. avatar Huntmaster says:

          They did not do the job they were paid to do. In fact they failed miserably to do it. They had a contract.

        7. avatar BR says:

          I would be surprised to see this lawsuit succeed, maybe paid off but not in court.

          If I were the defendant my stance would be that the state did what it should. He passed his background checks to get the FOID and there are no laws requiring the state to remove the firearms owned by the person. He broke the law not the state. Furthermore and more importantly, the only reason he was issued the FOID and able to buy a gun was because Mississippi state did not do its job by not submitting the shooters criminal record to the NICS and as such the victim is suing the wrong party.

    3. avatar rt66paul says:

      The only way this would be effective to force LEOs to take notice, is for it to hurt them, personally. Every time someone wins in a case like this, the money should come out of that department’s pensions. The early payout on pensions should be taken at half pay for those that are not disabled. That way a monthly pension check for 25 years service would only be 1/2 for those in that department, until the suit was satisfied. This would force the LEOs to think about what they are doing.
      It is very unfair that all of the actions of LEOs are covered by taxpayers.

      1. avatar A O says:

        Only the ISP issues FOID or are aware of purchases; all other departments are unaware of transactions. Hell, they are not even made aware when a FOID is issued to a resident, so how could they be liable?

        1. avatar A O says:

          I forgot to mention there are Less than 10 members of the ISP even reviewing FOID applications.

  4. avatar Markham says:

    pfft, come to Los angeles and go pick up weapons, gang bangers have plenty, you think to cops are breaking down doors and collecting them? Ghost guns? Plenty around.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      From what I have seen, the DOJ task force is hitting soft targets only, leaving the gang bangers alone. I don’t blame them. The task force officers have less training and are paid substantially less than regular police officers, so why not let the regular cops corral these guys? Is isn’t as if those bangers ain’t gonna re-offend and get snatched up.

  5. avatar Mark N. says:

    Smells like a loser to me. I did municipall liability cases in California for 20 years or more, and the Illinois sovereign immunity law sounds a lot like the California law. First, the FOID issuance is “shall issue,” and it appears that the disqualifying felony was not picked up by the Illinois background check system (I don’t recall the reason, but I think it has something to do with only Illinois crimes being picked up.) If it wasn’t in the system, no negligence. As to the failure to snatch up his gun, this is a law enforcement issue for which there is at the least qualified immunity for any officer, if not absolute immunity because a) no particular officer was tasked to retrieve the gun, and b) as we all know, there is no duty to protect, i.e., no duty owed to particular individuals to enforce the law. So the guy gets workers’ comp. Which sucks for him, but that’s the way I see it.

    1. avatar binder says:

      There is also no proof he had the gun. There is no penalty for not reporting the sale (The only reason to use the “universal” background check is to avoid any civil liability) or he can say that he just check and realized the gun is missing.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        I suspect that he was arrested with A gun that just so happened to be THE gun he’d bought. But it doesn’t make any difference, except to make it an even easier case for the ISP.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      the cops aren’t liable here…the system is….

  6. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Mr. Martin would have never possessed the firearm he used at the Henry Pratt Company mass shooting had the Illinois State Police properly followed and implemented their internal protocols intended to keep firearms out of the hands of citizens …

    Right, because it is utterly and totally impossible to steal a firearm or purchase one on the black market once the State Police sends a revocation letter. /end_sarcasm

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      Hat attitude is the same displayed with gun free zone signs. It won’t happen because we outlawed it.

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      “Mr. Martin would have never possessed the firearm he used…”

      “…because it is utterly and totally impossible to steal a firearm…”

      This thought occurred to me too but notice the exact and specific language used.

      “…the firearm he used…” The, as in that specific one. The one and only pistol he did use. The plaintiff is not alleging that the police could have prevented the guy from getting A gun but merely the specific one that they failed to take away from him and which he subsequently used to shoot up the place in question.

      That difference seems semantic and academic but really it’s not. It’s a very precise point. I think that’s part of what this suit rests on.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        The shooter had a legal duty to turn in the gun and his FOID card; by not doing so he broke the law. The ISP had no legal duty to go fetch it when he failed to do so. Without a legal duty, there can be no liability, no matter how egregious the injury.

        To use an analogy to explain the concept of “duty” as used by the courts, gun manufactures owe no legal duty to people injured by the criminal actions of a gun owner/possessor. Yes, there is a statute that says that, but that was simply because there was a concerted effort to ruin all of them with litigation, and to preclude conflicting judgments in various courts in emotionally charge cases. This is no different than a car manufacturer, which owes no duty to the victim of a drunk driver. Absent a duty, there is no liability a a matter of law.

    3. avatar rt66paul says:

      At least it wouldn’t be the gun he was known to have. The police here did not do their job and people died as a direct result.

      We all know the law is to restrict the good citizens from having firearms, it really is not about criminals. But the law is the law, so the police should have, at the least, made a try to take any guns he was known to have. This shows us what these laws really mean.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Bull cookies. This victim was injured and others died as the direct result of the criminal misconduct of the shooter. Period. The failure of the ISP to confiscate his firearm was, at best, a remote cause. If I go to a gun store and show my FOID, purchase a gun, and walk out, is the gun store liable if some time later the card is revoked? Obviously not. This is no different.

    4. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

      True

  7. avatar Kendahl says:

    Did Martin buy a gun after his FOID was revoked, which would mean completing a 4473 and passing NICS, or did he just keep a gun he had bought legally before the revocation?

    1. The revocation happened after he bought the gun. They sent a letter which he ignored.

  8. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    OOOO! that should be a good one especially if goes to SCOTUS

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    Ummm…dude should sue his employer Pratt for bringing in that criminal to be fired. All they needed to do was remotely give him the pink slip. Enormous liabilty for such an elementary blunder. I’m not saying the cretin couldn’t shoot up the joint but you could see him coming. I really doubt they’ll win against the state po-leece!

    1. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

      I agree, sort of. I hate to make a small business suffer more than they already are. Maybe they called him in to soften the blow….calm him down so he didn’t beat his family and kick the dog. Maybe the boss is a nice guy who took a chance on an ex-con. (I come from a small business family, we never sent pink slips.)

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Pratt is NOT a “small business”! I get it-I really do. My wife managed a hotel. She had to fire bad employee’s… Always notified. Years ago I managed a sales force. You always fire remotely. And Pratt seemed to have little or no security. They hired a violent ex- con on top of it all…ILLinois sux but the FOID sux worse!

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      yeah,..the employer should be part of the suit…easier win there…

  10. avatar NORDNEG says:

    All right!!! Go get them,,, hope you break the bank on this one… Make them ignorant Democrats pay through the arse,,,

  11. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    They won’t get squat. The ISP will give them selves a rub, tug and a pat on the back. Just like in any and all of these cases.

  12. avatar Craig in IA says:

    Enable victims to sue the person in charge rather than a blanket lawsuit on an entire agency. Then the governmental powers that be will get smart and put robots in charge of such decisions…

    (I’m not kidding)

  13. avatar WI Patriot says:

    “Victim of Aurora Shooting Sues Illinois State Police Over FOID Issuance Error”

    Saw this coming a mile away, it only opens the door for more and frivolous lawsuits…

    1. avatar Huntmaster says:

      Nothing frivolous about getting shot a work. Was he permitted to carry his own firearm or prohibited by the employer? I feel that if your employer denies you the right to defend yourself at work they kind of take on the responsibility to provide a safe working environment.

      1. avatar WI Patriot says:

        EXCEPT, the employer ISN’T the one getting sued…What many fail to realize is that IF someone wants to create chaos, do mass harm, has ill-intentioned behavior on their mind, there is NOTHING that can be done to dissuade them…where there’s a will, there’s a way…

        Think of it this way, you have 10 OUI/OWI, etc, your DL has been revoked, what is there to stop you from driving anyway, NOTHING…

  14. avatar borg says:

    He would have a better chance suing his workplace for banning self defense by way of gun ban and failing to provide adequate security despite assuming the responsibility to protect workers due to preventing them from defending themselves.

  15. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    So, to avoid liability the issueers are goinv to have to arvue that any qualification scheme has gaps, and the B G could have gotten a gun anyway?

    #moarpopcorn

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