The parents of a Pakistani exchange student killed during a mass shooting at a high school in Texas earlier this year are suing the gunman’s parents for failing to safely store their firearms.
Sabika Sheikh was was one of the eight students killed when Dimitrios Pagourtzis allegedly opened fire inside the arts complex at Santa Fe High School. Two substitute teachers also died in the shooting and another 13 people were injured.
The teen’s parents on Wednesday joined several other victims’ families in a lawsuit that alleges Pagourtzis’ parents had been aware their son “was at risk of harming himself or others but still irresponsibly and negligently stored their firearms, so that their son could access them.”
Authorities said Pagourtzis was armed with a shot gun and a revolver in addition to explosive devices when he unleashed a torrent of bullets inside the Gavelston County school the morning of May 18.
“In the months and weeks leading up to the shooting, the Defendants’ son exhibited many warning sings that they noticed but did nothing to address,” the lawsuit claims, citing Pagourtzis’ fascination with the Columbine High School shooting as well as his online behavior.
The suspect went out of his way to mimic the gunmen behind the 1999 mass shooting by wearing similar clothing — like full-length black trench coat and black combat boots, regardless of temperature. Among the insignia pinned to his jacket, was a medallion identical to one worn by one of the Columbine gunmen.
His social media presence also should have been a red flag, the lawsuit contends.
Weeks before the shooting Pagourtzis shared a photo of himself wearing a shirt that reads “BORN TO KILL” — the same tee he wore during the attack on his high school. In April, he posted a photo of a semiautomatic pistol, a knife, and a flashlight with the caption “Hi f—ers” on Instagram.
“Any reasonable parent would have ensured that their child, who was exhibiting signs of emotional distress and violent fantasies, did not have access to weapons that he could use to kill others (or himself),” according to the suit. “The Defendants did not even do the bare minimum to prevent their son from accessing the deadly weapon.”
An attorney for Pagourtzis’ parents previously denied all allegations in a court filing, arguing the “mere fact of paternity or maternity does not make a parent liable to third parties for the torts of his or her minor child.”
Sabika arrived in the United States in August 2017 as part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange program and enrolled in Santa Fe High School. She dreamed of following in her father’s footstep into business and hoped to become a “trailblazer, as a female entrepreneur in Pakistan.”
“Her dreams of entrepreneurship, diplomacy and empowerment were cut short when the shooter entered her art classroom,” according to the documents.
The 17-year-old took cover in a supply closet after she heard gunfire in a room that adjoined with her own — but her hiding spot was not enough to keep her safe.
Pagourtzis allegedly opened fire into the closet, striking Sabika a total of nine times. She died from gunshot wounds to the head face and shoulder, according to the autopsy.
At the time, she was only three weeks away from returning home to her family in Pakistan.
Pagourtzis was arrested and jailed on murder charges, with a trial slated to begin sometime in 2019.