CLOSINGS & CANCELLATIONS

Highland Park shooting victims file lawsuits against gun-maker over advertising practices

Highland Park shooting victims file lawsuits against gun-maker over advertising practices
Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images
September 29th, 2022 | ABC News Radio

(HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.) — Victims of the July 4 shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, are filing a series of lawsuits against the manufacturer of the gun used in the shooting, accusing the company of irresponsibly and unlawfully marketing weapons in an unsafe and illegal manner, according to an attorney for one of the victims. The suspect allegedly used a rifle manufactured by Smith & Wesson to carry out the shooting.

The suits also name the former parent company of the manufacturer, American Outdoor Brands; accused shooter Robert Crimo III; and his father, Robert Crimo Jr., Ari Scharg, an attorney at Edelson, one of the firms coordinating the legal complaints, told ABC News.

Suits are being filed by families of three victims killed, at least 10 people or families of people who were injured and more than 30 people at the parade who were traumatized by the shooting, according to attorneys for the victims. They are represented by law firms including Romanucci & Blandin; Everytown Law; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Some lawsuits also name online gun distributor Bud’s Gun Shop and Illinois gun retailer Red Dot Arms, alleging that the retailers negligently and illegally sold the weapon to the alleged shooter in violation of the assault weapons bans in Highwood and Highland Park, Illinois, according to a joint press release from the law firms.

“Despite that Bud’s Gun Shop knew that the shooter resided in Highland Park or Highwood, where it is illegal to acquire or possess an assault weapon, it sold the Rifle to the Shooter, thereby knowingly aiding and abetting the violation of the ordinances,” the suit alleged.

The suit also accuses Red Dot Arms of knowingly violating the ban.

“Despite knowing that the Shooter resided in a municipality that prohibited the possession of assault weapons, Red Dot Arms transferred the Rifle to the Shooter, thereby knowingly aiding and abetting the violation of the ordinances,” the lawsuit alleged.

Robert Crimo III, is facing 117 charges for allegedly killing seven people and injuring more than 30 others at an Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburb. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Elizabeth Turnipseed, a victim who was shot in the pelvis during the shooting while standing next to her husband and 3-year-old daughter, is one of the plaintiffs who filed a suit in the Circuit Court of Lake County on Wednesday.

Scharg, who is representing Turnipseed, told ABC News in an interview that his client has been in and out of the hospital since the shooting and will likely never be able to walk again without assistance. Turnipseed returned to the hospital Wednesday due to her injuries, he said.

“She woke up this morning with blinding pain from the inside of her body and is now again back in the hospital undergoing tests and scans,” Scharg said.

Turnipseed still has shrapnel in her body from the shooting, which will likely remain in her body for the rest of her life, Scharg said.

The suit alleges that Turnipseed has suffered and will continue to suffer pain and anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of earnings and earning capacity and has incurred and will continue to incur substantial expenses for medical treatment, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by ABC News.

The lawsuit filed on Wednesday is one of about 10 suits being filed by victims of the shooting. They have not yet all been filed. While the suits are being filed separately, lawyers intend to enjoin them at a later stage, Scharg said.

The lawsuit filed by Turnipseed alleges that “Smith & Wesson has been aware since at least 2000 that its marketing practices played a role in contributing to gun crimes.”

According to the lawsuit, the company negotiated a settlement that year with the federal government, saying it will not “market any firearm in a way that would make the firearm particularly appealing to juveniles or criminals’ due to the foreseeable risk of such advertising fueling unlawful acts of violence by such actors.”

The suit alleges that Smith & Wesson targeted “impulsive young men with hero complexes and/or militaristic delusions military complexes attracted to the particularly high lethality of ar-15 style weapons . . . to execute their fantasies.”

According to the lawsuit, Smith & Wesson’s marketing was designed “to mimic the aesthetic of being the shooter in a video game” which is used in many popular video games, such as Call of Duty.

Turnipseed is alleging that Smith & Wesson is responsible for damages and injuries caused by the shooting.

Smith & Wesson, American Outdoor Brands, Bud’s Gun Shop and Red Dot Arms did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

In a statement to VICE in August, Red Dot Arms owner Mike Rioux defended the sale to the alleged shooter saying the company sells legal products and he doesn’t know how the suspect found the company.

“We sell firearms to law-abiding citizens upon approval from the Illinois State police,” Rioux said.

Turnipseed is asking for an unspecified amount in damages from Smith & Wesson and an injunction that “prohibits Smith & Wesson from falsely representing its products as being commonly used by, endorsed by, or associated with United States military/law enforcement personnel and unfairly and unlawfully targeting youth in their marketing,” according to a copy of the lawsuit.

Turnipseed is also asking for damages from the accused shooter and his father.

Robert Crimo Jr., the suspect’s father, told ABC News in July he is not culpable in the shooting, saying he had spent time with his son before the shooting and was “shocked.”

The lawsuit accuses the suspected shooter of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress for the military-style assault designed to injure, maim, or kill a large number of people at the Highland Park parade.

Turnipseed is requesting damages from the accused shooter’s father for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress for allegedly facilitating his son’s ability to purchase a rifle despite knowing his propensity and desire to commit mass violence.

While the suit does not specify how much Turnipseed is looking to collect in damages, damages in the jurisdiction the suit was filed in must exceed $50,000, according to Scharg.

Scharg said the medical costs Turnipseed has incurred and will continue to exceed that threshold.

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