Widow of San Bernardino victim says the county owes her $58 million

Post-violence lawsuits by grieving family members are not uncommon. And often they deliver results.

Rachel Luna/The Sun via AP
Renee Wetzel (c.) and her daughter Allie, are comforted by a woman during the memorial service for her husband at Calvary Chapel Conference Center in Twin Peaks, Calif. Ms. Wetzel the widow of Michael Wetzel, killed in last month's mass shooting in San Bernardino has filed four claims with the county and is seeking damages totaling $58 million, according to a newspaper report.

The widow of a man killed in the Dec. 2nd San Bernardino shootings is suing the county for $58 million. 

Michael Wetzel was attending a holiday luncheon at the Inland Regional Center on where he worked as an environmental health specialist for San Bernardino County when he was killed in a mass shooting orchestrated by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik. 

Now Michael’s widow, Renee Wetzel, has filed four claims against the county. She is seeking $3 million for loss of wages, $25 million for general damages, and $10 million for each of her three young children for a total of $58 million.

Post-violence lawsuits by grieving family members are not uncommon. And often they deliver results.

In May 2014, Elliot Rodger fatally stabbed three men and then fatally shot another three at an apartment complex near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus. The families of three of Mr. Rodger’s victims filed a federal suit in March alleging that the county, sheriff’s department and apartment building, failed to take action against Rodger’s dangerous “red flags.” 

The victims’ families inspired a new California law, effective Jan. 1, under which family members can ask a judge for a gun violence restraining order. When such an order is issued the relative must temporarily surrender all of their firearms from anywhere between 21 days to a year. 

Under this new law, family members and law enforcement would have had legal jurisdiction to seize Rodger's weapons after his therapist and parents said he was a dangerous threat. 

With the new law, “all of this could have been prevented” says Bob Weiss, whose 19-year-old daughter, Veronika, was killed by Rodger.

Attorneys Stanton T. Matthews and Andrew J. Nissen who are representing Renee Wetzel and her three children have not yet elaborated on the specific details of the negligence claims in the San Bernardino case.

“Claimants allege the decedent’s death was preventable and caused by the negligent and careless actions of respondents and each of them,” says Renee’s vague claim, which lists the county and 25 individuals as responsible for Michael’s death.

The country confirms that Renee’s claims are the only ones filed thus far.

“The county will carefully consider each claim and act in the best interests of everyone involved,” county spokesman David Wert said in a statement Tuesday. 

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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