TAMPA Dec 4 The family of Mary Frances
Delorenzo Knight, 51, who died in the Washington Navy Yard
shooting in September, filed a negligence lawsuit on Wednesday
against two U.S. government agencies, Hewlett-Packard,
and a technology subcontractor, seeking $37.5 million in
The lawsuit claims the shooting in building 917 by Aaron
Alexis, 34, in which Knight and 11 other civilian workers were
killed and four wounded, could have been prevented with on-site
"It's illegal to possess a firearm on federal property
except for on-site law enforcement," said Sidney Matthew, legal
representative for the family. "We have metal detectors in
airports and courthouses to check for guns. If the U.S. Navy had
followed this security procedure this tragedy would not have
Alexis had a Navy security clearance and worked on-site as a
technology contractor for The Experts, a Hewlett-Packard
subcontractor, based in Fort Lauderdale. He carried out the
shooting with a sawed-off shotgun, and ammunition in a backpack,
before he was killed in a gun battle with police.
"We're reviewing the filing at this time but have no further
comment," said HP spokesman Michael Thacker.
The Experts did not immediately respond to messages seeking
comment on the lawsuit.
Knight's family also alleges in the lawsuit that the
Department of the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs
failed to revoke Alexis' Common Access Card (CAC) after a series
of red flags about his mental health. Alexis twice sought
treatment from a Veterans Affairs hospital for insomnia and
said he was hearing voices that kept him awake, Matthew said.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to
calls for comment on the lawsuit.
The suit further claims that both Hewlett-Packard and The
Experts were aware of Alexis' mental state and failed to take
necessary action and did not initiate an adequate background
"All the flaws in the various systems are just immense, and
I think they need to review everything they are doing," said
Patricia Delorenzo, Knight's sister.
Justin Givens, a lawyer for the family in Tallahassee,
Florida, cited Alexis' run-ins with police and his history of
mental illness to argue the government agencies should have
acted on the information.
"Mr. Alexis not only had a history of mental illness but was
involved in gun crimes, and here you have an individual who is
given clearance to be on U.S. military facilities," he said.
The lawsuit details three occasions when Alexis, a former
Navy reservist, was arrested.
The claim also criticizes the handling of his clearance by
the government and the defense contractor who employed him.
Alexis was a contract employee for the Defense Department
and received a "secret" clearance in 2008 despite several
violent incidents, including a 2004 arrest in Seattle for
shooting out a car's tires. The case was never prosecuted, and
in a 2010 shooting incident was ruled accidental.
A "secret" clearance is a mid-level security classification
that allows the holder access to classified information, which
could be damaging to national security if released. It falls
below the "top-secret" clearance, which requires more frequent
In the wake of the shooting, the security clearance process
has come under scrutiny on Capitol Hill, where senators are
examining the government's procedures for conducting background
After the shooting the Pentagon said it would review
security at military installations around the world and the
White House promised to review standards for federal government
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Knights two daughters and
her sister. Each is seeking $12.5 million in damages.