FARMINGTON, N.M. — The family of a New Mexico student who was killed when a gunman opened fire inside Aztec High School in 2017 is suing the school district and police, saying more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
Casey Jordan Marquez’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last week in state district court. School officials and police have declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Marquez and classmate Francisco “Paco” Fernandez were killed shortly after school started on Dec. 7, 2017.
The 21-year-old gunman, William Atchison, ambushed Fernandez in a bathroom and then encountered Marquez in the hallway. Both teens were shot multiple times before the gunman walked the hall, firing randomly. He then killed himself as students and teachers took cover in their classrooms.
The shooting prompted state lawmakers to allocate more money for infrastructure projects to improve school security, such as fencing and controlled entrances.
The lawsuit details what Marquez’s family described as failures on the part of school officials, such as never implementing the recommendations of a 2013 campus security assessment and not reporting the shooter’s 2012 suspension for “memorializing” the Columbine High School shooters on a classroom whiteboard.
It also claims that police in 2016 failed to forward information on a targeted threat against Aztec High School to district officials or the school resource officer, and that the FBI put the wrong member of the shooter’s family in that threat warning.
The Aztec school board, Superintendent Kirk Carpenter, the city of Aztec, the police department, Police Chief Mike Heal and Captain Troy Morris are listed as defendants.
Albuquerque attorney Luis Robles, who is representing Marquez’s family, told The Daily Times that the school district and police, for independent reasons, failed to protect Marquez and other students.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Part of the research done by Robles’ law firm included speaking to attorneys involved in some of the more than 20 lawsuits stemming from a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In that case, 17 people were killed and 17 more were injured.
A portion of the lawsuit filed by Marquez’s family details the 2013 school security assessment. The report provided to the district advocated for secure perimeters at Aztec schools using fencing and gates to funnel everyone through a main entrance. For Aztec High, the report recommended installing fencing to seal the school’s entire perimeter and locking all exterior doors once the school day starts.
According to the lawsuit, the superintendent and at least one school board member allegedly said the risk to the district was “simply too remote” to warrant an investment in security.
Not much has changed, said Marquez’s mother, Jamie Lattin.
“You can still walk on that campus no problem, you can still enter the back doors, the rear exits, no problem,” she said.
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