WASHINGTON (CN) – Hiding from the man moving through the Washington Navy Yard with a shotgun that September day, all Jane Mae McCollough hoped was that wherever he shot her, she could call her brother and father before she died.
McCullough hid with her co-workers just on the other side of a thin cubical from Aaron Alexis, who shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013. She could feel him kicking through the wall, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in superior court.
McCullough survived and is now one of five people who brought lawsuits in Washington on the eve of the second anniversary of the attacks, alleging that the government contractors that employed Alexis negligently allowed the man to continue working despite signs of mental illness and a history of arrests.
The five complaints – four of which were brought by family members of a person killed in the shooting – claim Alexis believed someone was following him and began to hear voices shortly before the shooting. They say government contractors The Experts Inc. and HP Enterprise Service knew of these problems before Alexis smuggled a shotgun onto the base in Southeast Washington.
Alexis called a project coordinator with The Experts in August 2013 while on a business trip claiming a man sitting across from him at an airport was making fun of him. One day later he asked his coordinator to let him move to a different hotel because the one where he was staying was noisy, according to a complaint filed on behalf of the estate of Frank Kohler, who died in the shooting.
Once at the next hotel, however, Alexis informed a travel coordinator with The Experts that two men and one woman had followed him there, were talking about him in the next room, and were using an ultrasonic device to keep him awake and to pin him to his bed, according to the complaint.
Kohler’s estate says the travel coordinator was worried Alexis might hurt someone.
Later that day officers were called to Alexis’ hotel room. They found he had taken apart his bed to find someone he thought was hiding underneath it. He had also taped a microphone to the ceiling in the hopes of recording the voices he heard of the people in the next room.
Alexis later called a supervisor asking to stay in her room because he believed he was being followed. When he later met with the supervisor he asked if she could hear the voices he was hearing.
She told him she couldn’t, according to the complaint.
In response these incidents, The Experts, which had a contract with the government through HP Enterprise, removed Alexis from his assignment for two days, then reinstated him on Aug. 9, according to the complaint.
The high number of filings this week is likely because the two-year statute of limitations to bring certain claims based on the shooting is about to expire, said David Schloss, who represents the estates of three people killed in the shooting.
In February a federal judge in Florida transferred similar claims against The Experts to D.C.
HP Enterprise also fired the Florida-based contractor shortly after the shooting.
Schloss and Geoffrey Burke, who represents McCullough, said attempts to settle the charges out of court were unsuccessful.
Schloss said his clients gave the contractors “every opportunity” to apologize and that his clients primarily want to ensure a shooting like the one at the Navy Yard never happens again.
Schloss’ plaintiffs seek damages of $10 million, while Burke’s seek damages to be determined at trial.
“They’re not bringing this because they want to be made whole,” Schloss said. “No amount of money could ever bring their husbands back. The reason they’re bringing this is they want to hold responsible the companies that dropped the ball.”
A representative for HP Enterprise Services declined to comment, and The Experts could not be reached for comment on the case.
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