Trial begins to assess the damage caused by the 2017 Texas church massacre

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) – A process of assessing harm done to families of victims of the Sutherland Springs Church Massacre started with lively testimony of the shooting.

John Porter Holcombe testified for several hours Monday about the horrors of Devin Patrick Kelley’s attack on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, on November 5, 2017.

Holcombe said he videotaped the service that Sunday when the front door opened and Kelley, clad in black and with a rifle, stood in the entrance saying, “First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, you are all going to die today!” He said the next thing he heard was gunfire.

Holcombe said he was shot a couple of times, but he was still. When he felt it was safe enough, he looked around for his family and friends, but saw only “lifeless bodies.”

Among the 26 dead were Holcombe’s pregnant wife, Crystal, his two stepchildren, his parents, brother Marc “Danny” Holcombe and a little niece. 22 people were injured but survived.

US District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ordered the trial to determine how much the US Air Force should pay to compensate survivors and the families of those killed. He ruled in July that the Air Force was “60% liable” for the attack because they could not file Kelley’s assault conviction in a national database while he was with the Air Force, which may have prevented him from buying the weapons he was had used in the mass shootings.

Kelley, who was discharged from the Air Force in 2014 for bad behavior, exchanged fire with an armed resident as he left the church. He was chased by two residents of Sutherland Springs and died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound after losing control of his vehicle and having an accident.

Rodriguez began hearing testimony on Monday in the damage phase of the case, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General James Dingivan, who represents the Air Force, told the court on Monday that “the government has no intention of denigrating or dismissing the claims of these plaintiffs, which we can all agree are a terrible tragedy have endured. “

He said the government had already established “adequate compensation and treatment for some of these plaintiffs” in proposed payments of “400 to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more”.

“In terms of future medical expenses, we have presented life plans that cover future (treatment / need) and recommend millions of dollars for future medical care,” Dingivan said. “We proposed a research-backed PTSD treatment for those who were using it. We suggested home nursing, medicine, surgery … for those claimants who need it. “

This phase of the process is expected to take two weeks.


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