Family of Westminster man files lawsuit over Naval Yard shooting
By Staff and Wire Reports
Sep 16, 2015 at 10:55 PM
The family of a Westminster man who was killed in the Washington Navy Yard shooting two years ago has filed a lawsuit against companies they say could have prevented the shooting from happening.
The lawsuit from the family of Richard "Mike" Ridgell, of Westminster, joins actions from the families of the other victims of the mass shooting.
Attempts to contact Ridgell's widow for comment Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Wednesday marked the second anniversary of the shooting in which military contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 people, including Ridgell, in the Washington Navy Yard's Building 197 before being fatally shot by law enforcement. The day also was the legal deadline for filing wrongful death claims under Washington, D.C., law, and several families filed lawsuits in the days ahead of the deadline.
The lawsuits name as defendants Texas-based HP Enterprise Services LLC, a Defense Department contractor, as well as its Florida-based subcontractor, The Experts Inc., the information technology consulting firm for which Alexis worked. Two of the lawsuits also name the company that provided security at the Navy Yard building.
The lawsuits allege that companies that oversaw Alexis' work knew or should have known about violent outbursts in his past. The lawsuits also say the companies were aware of more recent troubling behavior, including that he heard voices, believed he had a chip implanted in his head, and thought people were following him and trying to keep him awake by using a machine to send vibrations into his body.
The lawsuits say the companies failed to warn the Navy that Alexis was a security risk and allowed him to retain clearance to access to the Navy Yard.
Three lawsuits, each for $10 million, were filed in D.C. Superior Court by Washington-based attorney David Schloss, who represents the families of John Roger Johnson, Frank Kohler and Ridgell.
"We have brought the claims against HP and The Experts, because what became clear after this awful tragedy was that this was something that was both predictable and preventable," Schloss told the Carroll County Times on Wednesday. "Nobody is taking responsibility, and nobody is apologizing. The family has had no choice but to resort to this lawsuit."
Ridgell had worked as a security officer at the Navy Yard. He was a 1979 graduate of Brooklyn Park High School and worked as a Maryland State Police trooper from January 1983 until August 2000. He resigned with the rank of corporal, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said in 2013. He then worked at Johns Hopkins Medicine from July 2000 to July 2007 as a security investigator, Johns Hopkins spokeswoman Stephanie Desmon said in 2013. He also worked as a contractor training police in Iraq for a period as well, according to media reports.
In Carroll, a softball field at Jaycee Park in Westminster was named after Ridgell, and a vigil was held there after his death. He had coached softball teams that regularly practiced and played games there.
Online court records show another three lawsuits were filed in federal court in Washington in the past week by the families of Sylvia Frasier, Kenneth Proctor and Arthur Lee Daniels Sr., all of whom died in the shooting. The Frasier family's lawsuit asks for at least $25 million. The Proctor family's lawsuit asks for at least $20 million. And the Daniels family's lawsuit seeks $10 million.
"Tragically, Alexis's shooting rampage was entirely preventable," lawyers for the Daniels family wrote.
Peter Grenier, a Washington-based attorney for the Proctor family, said the cases will likely be consolidated for discovery and possibly for trial. He said that if the cases don't settle, he expects a trial would be a year and a half to two years away.
The lawsuits filed earlier this week join one that was previously filed by the family of 51-year-old Mary Frances Delorenzo Knight, a Virginia resident and mother of two who died in the shooting. Like the lawsuits filed this week, Knight's family sued both The Experts and HP Enterprise Services. Both companies have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Knight's family, but the judge has not yet ruled.
Sidney Matthew, a Florida-based attorney who represents the Knight family, said they are alleging that if The Experts and HP Enterprise Services "had done their job, this would not have happened."
A lawyer for The Experts, Mark Chopko, said in an emailed statement that he was aware of the lawsuits but would not have any comment before having the chance to review them. He called the shooting "a tragedy for all concerned."
An HP spokeswoman said it is company policy not to comment on pending litigation. HP ended its contract with The Experts after the shooting.