The family of Mary DeLorenzo Knight, one of the victims slain by Aaron Alexis during the Washington Navy Yard massacre this past September, has filed a lawsuit on her behalf in federal court in Tampa.
The suit, filed Tuesday morning, alleges negligence by the government.
Alexis, who was a contracted worker with access to the building in the Naval Yard, shot and killed DeLorenzo and twelve others before he was killed during a standoff with police.
DeLorenzo's family is the first of the victims' families to come forth with a lawsuit since the tragedy, saying that the government failed to give Alexis, who suffered from mental problems, the proper security clearance, while the contractor he worked for never told the Navy about his history.
Specifically, the suit names the U.S. Navy, the Department of Veterans Affairs and two defense contractors as defendants. The family is seeking $37.5 million in damages.
Furthermore, the suit claims that the VA never treated Alexis' mental illness when he was admitted to a VA E.R. in August for insomnia. He had also been arrested multiple times for post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management and alcohol abuse.
DeLorenzo's sister, Patricia Delorenzo, is speaking out for the family as they file their suit.
"If this was my sister, my sister was in my place, she would do the exact same thing that I'm doing and I know that," she said with tears in her eyes. "So, I'll do whatever I can to honor her and honor the fallen and the injured, and hopefully never have this happen again."
Alexis worked for the Ft. Lauderale-based The Experts. Days following the tragedy, the company put on a statement after questions arose about how much they knew of Alexis's mental health issues.
At this time, we can confirm that the suspect had been employed by The Experts for approximately six months over the last year, during which time we enlisted a service to perform two background checks and we confirmed twice through the Department of Defense his Secret government clearance. The latest background check and security clearance confirmation were in late June of 2013 and revealed no issues other than one minor traffic violation.
Apparently, Alexis was on a team that was upgrading computers and that people he worked with had expressed concerns about his job performance.
Alexis had been arrested three times prior to the day of the shooting, including a month before the incident. When arrested, he had told cops that he was being controlled by low frequency radio waves. Police reportedly notified Newport Navy personnel about this.
Yet, he was granted a secret security clearance that allowed him to re-enter the Navy Yard anyway.
Sidney Matthew, the Tallahassee, Fla.-based attorney for the DeLorenzo family, says he hopes the lawsuit will promote changes to security for the Navy and other government agencies, such as installing metal detectors.
"We're all just torn apart," Patricia DeLorenzo said. "We just want to get through this."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.