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Settlement reached in gun lawsuit from Trolley Square massacre

Published: Thursday, April 11 2013 4:45 p.m. MDT

Carolyn Tuft, center, looks up at her daughter Kait Hinckley as the leave the court in Salt Lake City on Feb. 14, 2011. Tuft has reached a settlement with Sportsman's Fast Cash, which sold a gun to shooter Sulejman Talovic.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — After five years of legal battles, one of the victims in the Trolley Square massacre has reached an out-of-court settlement with the pawn shop that sold a gun to shooter Sulejman Talovic.

Carolyn Tuft quietly reached a settlement against Rocky Mountain Enterprises, also known as Sportsman's Fast Cash, a couple of weeks ago. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, though Rocky Mountain Enterprises does not admit guilt as part of the agreement, according to Tuft's attorneys. The case had been scheduled to go to trial this month.

"We're glad it's over," Tuft said Thursday.

Her attorneys called the settlement important not just for Utah, but for the nation.

"This is a very important case. ... Utah courts, for the first time, agreed that a gun dealer that negligently or illegally supplies a dangerous person with a gun can be held accountable in court," said Jonathan Lowy, attorney for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Gun companies simply can't profit from supplying criminals and dangerous people and look the other way when the inevitable happens."

Tuft and her her 15-year-old daughter, Kirsten Hinckley, were shot Feb. 12, 2007, when the heavily-armed Talovic went on a shooting spree inside and outside Trolley Square, targeting shoppers and other mall patrons at random.

Tuft was one of four people injured in the horrific event. Hinckley was one of the five victims who were killed. Talovic was killed in a final shootout with police inside the mall.

Talovic had purchased a Mossberg 88 pistol-grip 12-gauge weapon from Sportsman's Fast Cash. Tuft claimed the weapon was illegally sold to the 18-year-old as a "shotgun." It is illegal to sell a firearm to a person under 21, with the exception of shotguns and rifles. Tuft's attorney's argued that because the weapon Talovic bought came with a pistol grip and was not fired from the shoulder, it was not a shotgun.

Attorneys for the pawn shop argued the gun was made to be fired from either the shoulder or pistol grip, thus making it a shotgun.

With the settlement, Tuft avoids having to re-live the shooting in court.

"Everybody wants their day in court, but sometimes as a practical matter, if you can get a resolution that makes sense, then it's always nice to finalize it without going through a trial and everything involved in a trial and a possible post trial appeal," attorney Mark J. Williams said Thursday. "She's gone through more than should be asked of anybody."

Tuft was also represented by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"The bottom line in our presentation was even with the gun laws we currently have, they need to be enforced and they need to be enforced strictly. So we were seeking to hold them accountable for that illegal sale," Williams said.

When the lawsuit was filed five years ago, Williams noted that no one could have predicted a settlement would be reached during a time when gun laws were such a hot topic of debate in the nation.

"Again and again we have to see these horrific events occur through gun violence. And we felt very strongly that the laws of the United States needed to be enforced. And in the wake of all that's happened, I feel personally very strongly that something needs to be done to allow law enforcement and society in general to hold people accountable and also takes steps to try and plug up some of those holes." Williams said.

E-mail: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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