Families of slain victims and survivors of the Highland Park mass shooting have filed lawsuits against the gunman, his father and Smith & Wesson, which manufactured the gun used in the deadly attack.
The lawsuits were filed Wednesday by multiple law firms that represent surviving victims, estates of slain victims and family members who witnessed their loved ones being shot.
The defendants in the lawsuits are Robert Crimo III, Robert Crimo Jr., Smith & Wesson, online gun distributor Bud’s Gun Shop, Illinois gun retailer Red Dot Arms.
The lawsuits allege that Smith & Wesson’s marketing of the weapon used in the Fourth of July shooting was unfair and deceptive.
The suit says the marketing is misleading because it implies a non-existent association between Smith & Wesson’s “M&P,” short for military and police, line of assault rifles and the United States Military.
The suit also says that Smith & Wesson’s marketing and sales practices promote and sell an image that “caters to and attracts individuals” like the shooter.
Attorneys say the shooting was the “foreseeable and entirely preventable result of a chain of events initiated by Smith & Wesson.”
Online distributor Bud’s Gun Shop and retailer Red Dot Arms are accused of negligently and illegally selling the murder weapon, an M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle, to Robert Crimo III in violation of the assault weapons bans in Highwood and Highland Park.
Crimo, 21, of Highwood, has been charged with 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
Seven people were left dead in the parade shooting and over 45 were injured.
“The community in and around Highland Park has been devastated by this tragic shooting and too many lives have been lost or forever changed. Parents and grandparents lost their lives while simply trying to spend time with their families, others were shot and seriously wounded, including one young boy who has paid the highest price and will never ride his bike or run again,” said Antonio Romanucci, founding partner at Romanucci and Blandin.
“The use of a Smith & Wesson M&P15 for this nefarious purpose was predictable and preventable and there must be accountability for the corporate decisions that incubated this tragedy, clearly dismissing public safety while bringing in record earnings. With this litigation we intend to end the Smith & Wesson manipulation of consumers,” Romanucci said.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuits include the estates of Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Mexico; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park; and Stephen Straus, 88, of Highland Park.
Surviving victims included in the lawsuits are the Roberts family, Lauren Bennett, Lorena Rebollar Sedano, Mirna Rodriguez, Michael Zeifert, Amelia Tenorio, Silvia Vergara and over 30 people who suffered trauma after seeing their family members shot.
“The July 4th mass shooting in Highland Park wasn’t just an act of one troubled young man,” said Alla Lefkowitz, senior director of affirmative litigation at Everytown Law.
“As our complaints allege, he used a gun that was deceptively and unfairly marketed to him by Smith & Wesson, illegally sold to him by Bud’s Gun Shop and Red Dot Arms, and negligently put in his hands by his father. Each and every one of those entities and individuals bears responsibility for the devastation at the parade, and our lawsuit seeks to hold them accountable for the damage their actions led to,” Lefkowitz said.
The lawsuit against Robert Crimo Jr., who is the alleged shooter’s father, accuses him of sponsoring his son’s Firearm Owners Identification card application shortly after the 19-year-old attempted suicide with a machete and allegedly threatened to kill everyone in his house.
Leah Sundheim, the daughter of Jacki Sundheim, who was shot and killed, said she had lived for 28 years in a world where her mother was just a phone call away.
“After the phone rang on July 4th and my dad had to tell me that my mom went to the parade, that she was shot, that she was dead. My life is now broken into a before and an after. Before when my family was whole, when my childhood home was filled with yarn and laughter. After July 4th there is silence, there is grief, and there is the weight of her loss filling up every corner of my life,” Sundheim said.
Jon Strauss, whose father Steven Strauss was shot and killed, said there are no words that can “truly convey the trauma of having a loved one stolen from you; violently snatched away, with no rhyme or reason, never to return.”
“Our dad had been stolen from us and we would never get him back. The bullets that ended our father’s long life also forever altered the path of our family. Now, we would share the unwelcome distinction of being yet another American family shattered by random gun violence,” Strauss said.