Aztec police, schools sued in wrongful death lawsuit from AHS shooting
FARMINGTON — The family of the teenage girl killed in the 2017 Aztec High School shooting is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Aztec schools and police, stating Casey Jordan Marquez's death resulted from negligent acts of district officials and law enforcement.
Marquez and Francisco "Paco" Fernandez, both 17, were killed during the Dec. 7, 2017, early morning shooting.
The suit's claims include failures to act on specific things that might have stopped the shooting from happening, like a 2013 campus security assessment's recommendations which were never implemented, and the district not reporting the shooter's suspension in 2012 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 to district officials or the AHS school resource officer, and that the FBI put the wrong member of the shooter's family in that threat warning.
The Aztec Municipal School Board of Education, Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter, the City of Aztec, Aztec Police Department, Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal and Captain Troy Morris are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
Carpenter and the Aztec Municipal School District declined comment, citing pending litigation.
Captain Morris declined comment and Chief Heal did not respond to request for comment.
Marquez's family, including mother Jamie Lattin and a younger brother, are listed on the complaint as plaintiffs.
Luis Robles of the Albuquerque law firm Robles, Rael & Anaya, P.C. provided The Daily Times a draft of the complaint before it was filed in the First Judicial District in Santa Fe county.
Failure to act claimed
Robles told The Daily Times that Aztec schools and police, for independent reasons, failed to protect Lattin's daughter and the student body from shooter William Atichson, a former AHS student.
He added both government entities had information that was actionable, but they chose to not do anything.
The lawsuit 's allegations include that Aztec schools caused Marquez's death by creating a dangerous environment on the Aztec High campus.
The lawsuit seeks an unidentified amount of damages on the two counts of negligence along with claims by Marquez's mom and younger brother, seeking damages for loss of consortium due to Marquez's death.
Part of the law firm's research included speaking to attorneys involved in some of the more than 20 lawsuits filed by families of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, according to Robles. Seventeen people were killed and 17 more were injured in the Parkland shootings, with defendants in the lawsuit including the Broward County Sheriff's Office and Broward County School Board.
The law firm worked with Lattin on her first civil lawsuit against Aztec schools and Carpenter, claiming they were negligent in the sexual abuse and harassment of Marquez by former Aztec High School teacher James Coulter, according to The Daily Times archives.
Aztec School District
The complaint goes into detail how Atchison carried out the shooting, including how he entered the school's grounds through an unsecured point of access in the faculty/staff parking area.
He originally planned on taking an entire classroom of students hostage then killing them, according to the complaint.
It also states Atchison was suspended from school on March 9, 2012, for memorializing the Columbine school shooting by writing the schedule of that shooting on a classroom whiteboard in an attempt to eulogize the two shooters.
A district administrator said the suspension was for "making a potential threat" against the school, or what perceived as a threat, according to the complaint.
Aztec high administrators did not report this conduct to the school resource officer, the lawsuit states.
The complaint alleges high school administrators knew or should have known Atchison's school records showed he had been a victim of bullying and had "considerable family discord" with his father.
A portion of the lawsuit details a 2013 school district security assessment by the now-shuttered School Security Consultants, Inc.
The report provided to the district advocated for secure perimeters at the schools using fencing and gates to "funnel" everyone through a main entrance.
For Aztec High School, the report recommended installing fencing to "seal off" the school's entire perimeter and locking all exterior doors once the school day starts.
The lawsuit claims the superintendent and board members have taken no action on any of the recommendations.
SSCI employees were allegedly advised that the risk the district schools would be subject to a school shooting were "simply too remote" to warrant the investment.
Aztec Police Department
The lawsuit also talks about the "Use Caution" bulletin issued by the FBI, stating they were investigating a targeted threat against Aztec High.
The FBI received information in March 2016 about a person who posted an online comment, soliciting advice on how to acquire a gun to shoot up his former school.
The comment was traced to the computer of William's brother in Aztec.
The FBI determined that William posted the comment, but the brother was mistakenly identified on the bulletin.
The complaint alleges Aztec police took no action to inform the school resource officer of the threat or did not speak to school district and high school officials about the threat.
Atchison also visited the school in the weeks before the shooting, at one point being accompanied by a teacher around the campus, according to the complaint.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at email@example.com.
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