Nearly a year has passed since two sisters were fatally shot in a Texas A&M University-Commerce dorm room.
Their parents said they still have not received any information from the university about what happened and how, so they decided to sue.
The university pushed back on their claims in new court documents filed Dec. 1.
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“My daughters were, they were both amazing go-getters,” said Vanessa Calderon with a faint smile.
As if losing their daughters wasn't tragic enough, Calderon and Timothy Matts, the girls' father, said the unanswered questions surrounding their daughters’ murders 10 months ago is a recurring nightmare.
“I law awake every night and wonder what happened,” Calderon said during a Tuesday press conference called by her attorney.
Sisters Abbaney, 20, and Deja, 19, were shot and killed inside Deja’s dorm room at Texas A&M at Commerce last February.
Abbaney’s 2-year-old son was injured in the shooting but survived. Her ex-boyfriend is accused of the murders.
But to this day, the victims’ parents said they have no idea how it all happened.
“Where was security when all of this was going on?” Timothy Matts asked.
“I wonder how someone was able to get in a secure building, up secure elevators, shoot and kill both of my kids and shoot my grandson and yet nobody heard or seen anything,” Calderon said.
They claim they’ve been stonewalled by the university.
Their attorney Larry Taylor recently filed a lawsuit demanding information about the investigation, campus security and any violent crime in and around the premises, to then potentially determine if another lawsuit is warranted.
“It’s very difficult at this point when they [university] won’t turn over, they won’t provide you with details to really craft a good petition as to what took place,” Taylor said. “[The family] is being treated as if they did something wrong… All they want to know at this point is, 'What happened?'”
In a response to the family’s petition, the university argues in court documents that it is not liable because the gunman was neither a student, nor an employee, adding it’s also immune from releasing requested information.
“If the school is hiding behind governmental immunity this isn’t what it was built for,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t built to keep from answering questions from parents who lost children.”
Part of the university's response states:
"Because Petitioner’s potentials claims arise from the alleged criminal conduct of a non-party who was neither a student nor an employee of Texas A&M, there cannot be a claim for premises liability under the Texas Tort Claims Act. The acts of the third-party were the proximate cause of the death and injuries, rather than any condition of property.
Petitioner does not point to any facts that, if true, would establish that Texas A&M’s action and/or inaction involving violent crime on or around its premises or system-failures and/or security failures actually caused the injuries or deaths.
Petition still fails to state a claim for which sovereign immunity is waived under the Texas Tort Claims Act. Petitioner’s additional arguments in favor of pre-suit discovery do not add any facts that show the court would have subject matter jurisdiction over her potential claim. The shooting deaths and injuries at issue remain barred by sovereign immunity, defeating this Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over the pending petition."
“I can’t imagine that any parent wouldn’t want to know what happened and wouldn’t demand answers,” Calderon said.
The family said Abbaney’s 2-year-old son has made a full recovery after he was grazed by a bullet.
“But it’s hard because he misses his mom,” Calderon said. “He cries for her.”
A spokesman for Texas A&M University-Commerce said the school does not comment on pending litigation.
A court hearing is scheduled for next week regarding the petition.
The suspect in the case, Jacques Smith, 21, is in the Hunt County Jail and is awaiting trial.
Read the full lawsuit and the university's response below.