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WASHINGTON: The parents of Pakistani exchange student Sabika Sheikh have filed legal claims against the shooter’s parents, alleging that they knew their son had extreme emotional distress but failed to prevent him from accessing firearms.

Sabika, 17, a high school student from Karachi, was killed in a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas in May this year.

A student in the same school, Dimitrios Pagour­tzis, also 17, was identified as the suspect. He sketched out plans for the attack in his journal and home computer before entering the school, killing 10 and wounding 13, prosecutors said.

Sabika’s parents Abdul Aziz and Farah Naz have joined a lawsuit in which some of the 10 victims’ families blamed the shooter’s parents — Antonios Pagourtzis and Rose Marie Kosmetatos — for failing to restrain him.

“In the months and weeks leading up to the shooting, the defendants’ son exhibited many warning signs that they noticed but did nothing to address,” Sabika’s parents said in the lawsuit.

“After the shooting defendant Antonios Pagourtzis told a Greek radio station that he had been worried about his son weeks before the shooting — “as if I knew something would happen,” they added.

A spokesperson for the Pakistan Embassy told Dawn in Washington that “it’s a private lawsuit but if approached, we will be willing to provide whatever help we can”.

On the day she was killed at Sante Fe High School, Sabika was less than three weeks away from returning home after spending a year as an exchange student in the US. She was killed days before the Eid. Sabika was a youth ambassador with the State Department-sponsored Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Programme. She had excelled academically and volunteered at the local library, dressing up as a pirate for Halloween, keeping score at the high school’s baseball games and attending prom.

In a Nov 28 press release issued by Everytown for Gun Safety’s litigation team, Sabika’s parents said they wanted to pursue the matter because they felt that “no other parent should ever have to experience this unbearable grief. “Sabika’s picture is in front of our eyes every single moment, and her voice and laughter echo in our ears. For a mother and a father, this trauma and mourning stay until their last breath.”

They said they were grateful to everyone in the US and around the world who met them in person and reached out through emails, print, electronic and social media to express solidarity. This “empowers us to endure this most profound tragedy,” they added.

“Like all gun owners, gun-owning parents have a responsibility to securely store their firearms,” said Molly Thomas-Jensen, the counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety. “What happened at Santa Fe High School is a tragic reminder of why responsible gun storage is so critical. We’ll do all we can to deliver some measure of justice for Sabika’s family — and to prevent future tragedies by highlighting the deadly risks of irresponsible gun storage.”

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2018

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