Families of victims file lawsuit against school shooter

FILE - In this April 28, 2016, file photo, James Austin Hancock, a teen charged in a school cafeteria shooting that took place Feb. 29, 2016, sits next to his attorney Charlie Rittgers Sr. before Judge Ronald Craft in Butler County Juvenile Court in Hamilton, Ohio. Three students and their families are suing the family of the teenager who opened fire in an Ohio school cafeteria. The lawsuit alleges that negligence by James Austin Hancock's family led to the February shooting at Madison Local Schools near Middletown in February. (Greg Lynch/Journal-News via AP, File)

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — Three students and their families are suing the family of the teenager who opened fire in an Ohio school cafeteria.

Students Cameron Smith, Brant Murray and his sister, Genna, and their parents filed the lawsuit last month, alleging that negligence and recklessness by James Austin Hancock’s family led to the shooting by the 15-year-old boy at Madison Local Schools in February.

He was 14 at the time, and last month was sentenced to spend six years in a juvenile facility after pleading guilty to charges including attempted murder.

Smith was shot and Murray was injured by shrapnel in the shooting. Genna claimed she suffered emotional distress after witnessing the shooting. Hancock’s family “exhibited a total disregard for the life and safety of the public,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit also named Hancock’s grandparents, the owners of the handgun, as defendants for allowing Hancock to obtain the weapon, according to the suit.

Charlie Rittgers, who was Hancock’s attorney in his criminal case, told The Cincinnati Enquirer he’s confident the family members won’t be found to have done anything for which they can be held responsible. It’s unclear if he will represent the family in the civil case.

“I found many factual inaccuracies (in the lawsuit) which surprised me based on the fact that the investigative file from the sheriff’s office has been distributed in the public domain,” Rittgers said.

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial and asks for more than $350,000 from Hancock, his parents and grandparents.

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