Community Voices

Wednesday, Feb 06 2013 04:55 PM

Civil lawsuit will reveal case's details

By The Bakersfield Californian

Beth Lozano, the retired schoolteacher who was a witness to a Northern California school shooting where a teacher and student were killed, decries the filing of a lawsuit in the aftermath of the Taft Union High School shooting incident. The lawsuit, Lozano writes in her Feb. 3 op-ed, "Now that the guns have quieted, let the lawsuits begin," will only prolong grief and accomplish little else.

I strongly disagree. Each school shooting case has its own unique history and facts; Taft's is no exception. As of right now rumor and speculation are all we have.

The first thing parents can accomplish in a civil lawsuit is to learn the true facts of what happened: what led up to the shooting and whether there was adequate protection and security for the students. In the Taft case they will also learn the background facts about the accused shooter, Ryan Oliver: whether he made prior threats; if so, if these threats were known to the authorities; where he got the gun he used; where he got his ammunition; and if someone else was responsible for supplying him with the gun and ammunition.

The parents can learn from Oliver himself -- whose statement under oath can be taken -- what his intentions and motives were: if there was, in fact, bullying; if so, what it consisted of and who did it; if Oliver ever sought counseling; whether he shared his thoughts and plans with others; if so, what he said and to whom; and whether any of this information came into the possession of the authorities.

Did Oliver have a "hit list"? If so, did authorities know about it? Whose names were on it? What, if anything, might those on the hit list have allegedly done to be placed on the list?

The school authorities in Taft have released little information, rightfully citing the ongoing criminal prosecution and state privacy laws. A civil lawsuit can eventually circumvent all of these temporary restrictions and reveal all the facts.

Unless the entire factual background is made available to school administrators, teachers, school board members, parents, students and the public, meaningful discussion and debate about how to prevent these shooting incidents cannot occur.

Contrary to Ms. Lozano's position, I say the Taft community needs all the facts in the shooting case to be out in the open. A civil lawsuit will accomplish this goal.

Timothy Lemucchi is an attorney who has practiced law in Bakersfield for almost 50 years. He is a graduate of East Bakersfield High School and a former two-term member of the Kern High School District Board of Trustees. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.

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