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Victim's family: Navy, VA ignored 'red flags' in Washington Navy Yard shooting

From AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
updated 10:34 PM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Navy says it cannot comment on "ongoing action"
  • Mary DeLorenzo Knight, 51, was killed in the rampage at the Washington Navy Yard
  • Knight's family filed a federal claim seeking $37.5 million
  • Authorities have said Aaron Alexis was "delusional" before he opened fire

(CNN) -- The family of a woman killed during a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard filed a federal claim Friday against the government, alleging the Department of the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs ignored numerous warnings about the gunman's unstable mental state.

Attorneys are seeking $37.5 million on behalf of Mary DeLorenzo Knight's estate and her two daughters, according to a copy of the administrative claim provided to CNN.

Knight, 51, was one of 12 people killed on September 16 when authorities say Aaron Alexis opened fire at the Navy Yard. Alexis was killed by police.

The FBI has said Alexis, a contractor who had been discharged from the Navy, was under "the delusional belief that he was being controlled or influence by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves" in the days leading up to the shooting.

The Knight claim alleges the Navy and the VA missed a numerous "red flags" that Alexis presented a foreseeable risk, citing his run-ins with authorities where his mental health was called into question.

The claim alleges the Navy should have known that Alexis exhibited a pattern of "emotionally unstable behavior," citing his general discharge in 2011 for misconduct.

It also cited three arrests, dating back to 2004 when he was arrested in Seattle, accused of shooting out the tires of a man's truck in an anger-fueled "blackout."

His father told Seattle police in 2004 that his son was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after taking part in 9/11 rescue efforts, according to police records.

The claim accuses the VA of failing to diagnose and hospitalize Alexis, who "sought assistance for mental illness" at a VA hospital on August 23. It alleges Alexis reported symptoms of paranoia to the VA hospital.

The VA declined to comment on the claim, referring questions to the Justice Department.

"We are working closely with the Department of Justice to address this claim. But as an ongoing action, it would be inappropriate to comment any further," said Lt. Robert Myers, a Navy spokesman.

Such a claim is a possible precursor to a lawsuit. Under the law, the federal government must determine whether the claim has merit. If the government determines it doesn't, the claimant can then file suit.

"There is generally a six-month waiting period" with such a claim, said the Knight family attorney Clifford S. Gibbons. "But we aren't waiting six months. We'll file in about two weeks."

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