- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

SEATTLE (AP) — A Pierce County Superior Court judge has signed off on a $2.5 million settlement reached between relatives of Washington, D.C.-area sniper victims and a gun shop and gun maker connected to the shootings.

In the settlement reached in September, Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma agreed to pay $2 million to two survivors and six families related to the victims of snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. Gun manufacturer Bushmaster Firearms Inc. of Windham, Maine, agreed to pay the remaining $500,000.

Bushmaster made the weapon used in the shootings, which the pair reportedly stole from Bull’s Eye. The families’ lawsuit alleged that the shop’s owners were negligent in allowing that gun and others to disappear, and that Bushmaster was at fault for shipping the gun to an irresponsible dealer.

The settlement marked the first time a gun manufacturer has agreed to pay damages in such a case, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which helped the families file the lawsuit.

Judge Frank E. Cuthbertson approved the settlement Dec. 3 in Tacoma, though his order was filed under seal, the court said Friday.

Sonia Wills, the mother of victim Conrad Johnson, said $2.5 million “is nothing.”

“They know they’re worth more than that,” she said Friday. “This money will never bring my son back. It will never bring back any of the loved ones that were taken.”

Miss Wills said she will not see any of her family’s share of the settlement, whatever that winds up to be. The money will go to Mr. Johnson’s widow and two sons.

Brian Borgelt, who owned Bull’s Eye at the time, told the Associated Press this past fall that he did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, but simply wanted to get the issue behind him. Insurance covered the costs.

Bushmaster did not admit liability either and said it would not change corporate practices because of the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs were relatives of Mr. Johnson, James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, Hong Im Ballenger, Premkumar Walekar, Sarah Ramos, Linda Franklin, and two survivors — Rupinder Oberoi and Iran Brown.

Malvo and Muhammad lived in the Tacoma, Wash., area before heading east and beginning a terrifying string of random sniper shootings that left 10 dead in October 2002. The men are suspects in five shooting deaths and seven woundings in what officials have said was a cross-country spree.

Malvo, 19, admitted being the trigger man and has been sentenced to life in prison for two of the killings so far. He could still face the death penalty in other prosecutions.

Muhammad, 43, is on Virginia’s death row for his role in the slayings.

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