LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Family members of two of the deceased victims of last August’s mass shooting in Odessa have filed suit against a gun parts manufacturer and supplier who provided the semi-automatic weapon to the killer, according to the attorneys for the families.
The supplier has been identified as Marcus Anthony Braziel, of Lubbock. In September 2019, Braziel’s home was raided by ATF agents. During that raid, 29 guns were seized.
The lawsuit against Braziel was filed Friday afternoon at the Ector County Courthouse after a news conference held by the families of two of the victims and their attorney.
The mass shooting on August 31, 2019 killed seven and left 22 wounded.
The shooter, Seth Ator, was killed by police in the parking lot of the Cinergy Odessa movie theater during a gun battle.
During the news conference, attorney John Sloan said ‚”What we’re talking about is the wrongs that were committed against these two families. You know, these two families are heroes. These two families could have been any other family in Odessa, Texas. Carla’s brother was with his family going down the road to go have a family picture made. The shooter pulled up beside the car and pointed his gun at her little nephew, and then turned it and shot Joey through the door. Laila was at the car dealership with her family shopping for a new pickup truck, minding their own business, having a fun family outing. And the guy pulls up in the parking lot and starts shooting. Layla gets shot and killed. It could have been any one of the folks watching this tape. It could have been any one of you.”
“The families of Leilah Hernandez, who was 15 at the time, and Joseph Griffith, who was 40, are asking for more than $1 million in damages,” according to a news release from the attorneys of the families.
Joseph Griffith’s sister, Carla Byrne said they don’t care about the money, but they do care about accountability. “I would much rather [Marcus Braziel] be in jail today, but he can’t. He’s not in jail. so this is the second best thing.”
“Justice is such a term of fluidity, right? None of this will ever bring my brother back,” said Carla. “My brother will never walk his daughter down the aisle. There are so many things my brother had a life it was stolen from him.”
“Our clients want to hold accountable those who manufactured, profited from, and supplied the AR-style weapon used in the shooting,” attorney John Sloan said. “They hope to impose accountability for the negligence of the defendants that might prevent future gun violence and future gun deaths in Texas and beyond.”
Sloan says Marcus Braziel did not violate a criminal statute, but the families believe he is “clearly negligent” in selling a gun to Seth Ator.
As the one year anniversary approaches, Sloan says the family has waited anxiously for something to happen. “And nothing has happened, which is part of the reason they talk to me. Let’s see if we can make something happen. And that’s why we’re doing this. I want to provide closure to this family as much closure as I could possibly provide.”
“We’re all in this fight you and you and you and you, we’re all in this fight, whether you believe it or not, we’re all in this fight, whether your name is on this on this petition or not, you’re in this fight,” Carla said. ”You’re in this fight. We don’t know if somebody is gonna roll through here and start blasting bullets. That’s the world that we live in today. And there’s too many of us turning a blind eye to it. Marcus, Braziel has blood on his hands. He has blood on his hands and he’s gonna be held accountable.”
During the news conference Byrne also directed a message to Marcus Braziel.
“My message to you, Marcus, Braziel, is that you don’t get to sit back on your haunches and sell a gun to anybody walking into your home or via Craigslist or through the mail or however you go about it. You don’t get to do that and not face some kind of charge whether it’s civically or criminally. You don’t get to do that. Because you have messed with the wrong family and we are not going to take this lying down.”
The lawsuit claims Ator obtained his weapon illegally from Braziel. In federal court documents, on or about October 8, 2016, Braziel sold an Anderson AM-15 rifle to a resident of Odessa, Texas. The federal document says the initials for the resident is “S.A.” Editors Note: The AM-15 is Anderson’s model name because Colt has a trademark on AR-15.
Braziel’s home was raided after the shooting and more than two dozen guns were seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Braziel is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Northern District of the U.S. Attorney’s office, according to the news release.
Braziel recently filed a complaint asking the 29 firearms be returned to him because they were in his home “for the purposes of lawful collection of firearms,” and “it is not contraband.” The complaint also states the guns were inherited by his wife.
The other target of the suit, Anderson Manufacturing, based in Kentucky, allegedly sold firearms and gun parts to Braziel. The suit claims Anderson negligently sold “multiple firearms to an unlicensed dealer of weapons.”
“Anderson Manufacturing was obligated to exercise reasonable care in selling firearms to as to never needlessly endanger the public by arming prohibited or otherwise dangerous purchasers,” Sloan said.
Ator failed a background check in 2014 because he was diagnosed as being mentally ill, according to published reports. He also had at least two misdemeanor arrests and pleaded guilty to evading arrest in 2002.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 has reached out to the attorney for Marcus Braziel for a comment on the lawsuit.