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Parkland student shot 5 times files lawsuit against accused gunman and his family

The suit names Nikolas Cruz, the estate of Cruz's mother, the family Cruz lived with, and three mental health facilities as defendants.
by Kalhan Rosenblatt /  / Updated 
Image: Anthony Borges, 15, a survivor of the Parkland massacre.
Anthony Borges, 15, a survivor of the Parkland massacre.Kerry Sanders / NBC News

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A Parkland high school student who was shot five times while protecting his classmates has filed a lawsuit against accused gunman Nikolas Cruz, the family that took Cruz in, the estate of his deceased mother and several mental heath facilities.

Anthony Borges, 15, is credited with saving as many as 20 of his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, when Cruz allegedly opened fire on the Parkland campus, killing 17. During the shooting, Borges barricaded a classroom door and used his body as a shield as the bullets flew, protecting a class full of students from harm.

Royer Borges and Emely Delfin, Borges' parents, filed a suit in a Broward County court on Tuesday on their son's behalf, seeking a jury trial for "damages in excess of $15,000.00, exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney’s fees," among other damages.

The suit names Cruz, foster parents James and Kimberly Snead, Henderson Behavioral Health, Inc., Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, Inc., South County Mental Health Center, Inc., and the estate of biological mother Lynda Cruz, as defendants in the case.

"On top of everything, they’ve said from the beginning they're going to put their faith in the justice system and this is where they’re going to find their closure," the Borges' family attorney Alex Arreaza told NBC News on Wednesday.

Cruz, 19, moved in with James and Kimberly Snead three months before the shooting. James Snead asserted that the family knew Cruz had guns and were OK with it. There was a gun safe and Snead believed he possessed the sole key.

The lawsuit, however, claims that Cruz "had access to one or more of his guns, while residing at the Sneads' residence; and specifically, the AR-15 rifle that he subsequently used in committing the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School."

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Jim Lewis, the Snead family's attorney, said that his clients are "blameless" and had no idea that Cruz "was capable of doing this."

"We’re disappointed in the lawsuit. The Snead family is only guilty of opening their home up to a troubled young man whose mother just died so he had a place to live. As a result of doing that, their lives have been turned upside and they're facing financial ruin," Lewis said.

The suit also claims that Henderson Behavioral Health, Inc., was negligent in its duties after it gave Cruz a psychiatric evaluation in 2016 and determined he did not require hospitalization because he "'was not a risk to harm himself or anyone else' because he was on a treatment plan for ADHD, depression, and autism."

Additionally, the suit claims that Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, Inc., and South County Mental Health Center, Inc., "knew or should have known" that Cruz "suffered from mental illness and was a threat to others."

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In an email to NBC News, Linda De Piano, CEO of the Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, said that "Nikolas Cruz was never a client of the Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, nor did we ever have any contact with him."

The two other mental health facilities named in the suit did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

The suit goes on to claim the final defendant, the estate of Cruz's mother Lynda Cruz, who died in November 2017, should be held accountable due to her repeated reports of her son's violent behavior. It goes on to say that Lynda Cruz "owed a duty to the public" to obtain a "proper diagnosis and treatment" for her son and to prevent him from obtaining weapons.

After Cruz was evaluated in 2016, Lynda Cruz told investigators that her son suffered from ADHD, depression and autism but insisted he received his necessary medication as prescribed, according to the report.

She told investigators at the time that her son did not own a gun, beyond an air gun that she had taken away when he "didn't follow house rules about only shooting it within the backyard at the targets."

Arreaza said that the Borges family plans to file lawsuits against other entities, like the Broward Sheriff's Office, but that those agencies require six-month advanced notice before the suit can be filed.

"Things are moving here at a snail's pace, and the families are not getting the answers, not getting the response, and it’s business as usual down here," Arreaza said. "And the type of programs that let Cruz run around in that school are still in tact. They’re upset."

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