January 23, 2019 / 6:23 PM / a year ago

U.S. judge dismisses claims over 2009 Fort Hood massacre

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has dismissed wrongful death claims against senior U.S. government officials and civilian employees brought by victims of the 2009 mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas, which killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said on Tuesday night she lacked jurisdiction over claims by roughly 150 victims and family members against the secretary of defense, secretary of the army and FBI director because the United States was not also named as a defendant.

She also dismissed some claims because plaintiffs failed to exhaust their remedies with the Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or because government liability for civilian employee conduct was limited.

The damages lawsuit was filed three years after the Nov. 5, 2009 attack where U.S.-born Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, opened fire at a Fort Hood medical facility.

Hasan, 48, shouted “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is greatest” in Arabic, during the attack, which he later called an act of retaliation for U.S. wars in the Muslim world. He was sentenced to death in an Aug. 2013 court-martial.

The plaintiffs said officials knew or should have known Hasan was a threat, including through his alleged mistreatment of American soldiers who were his patients, and were grossly negligent in failing to stop him.

Kollar-Kotelly said some claims could be refiled, but dismissed other claims by military personnel and their families with prejudice because their alleged injuries were “incident to military service,” limiting government liability.

Neal Sher, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he is reviewing the 46-page decision, which did not address the merits of his clients’ claims.

“We will take whatever steps we can to pursue our claims,” he said in an interview.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hasan communicated before the attack with Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric whose teachings were believed by federal prosecutors to have inspired terrorism plots on behalf of al Qaeda. The cleric was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

The case is Manning et al v Esper et al, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 12-01802.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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