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FSU seeks dismissal of library shooting lawsuit

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Florida State University is asking for a lawsuit filed by a former student paralyzed in a 2014 shooting at the University’s Strozier Library to be dismissed, asserting the school is not liable for the “action of a madman.”

Farhan “Ronny” Ahmed filed a lawsuit in June against FSU in Leon County circuit court, seeking damages in excess of $15,000 for pain and suffering, disability and medical expenses.

The lawsuit alleges Ahmed, who was a 21-year-old biomedical engineering student at the time, was paralyzed from the waist down and has limited use of his right arm following the Nov. 20, 2014, shooting at FSU’s main campus library.

Ahmed was shot outside the library by Myron May, a former FSU student and 31-year-old lawyer who had returned to the campus. After shooting an FSU employee in the leg and wounding another student, May was shot and killed by campus police officers responding to the emergency.

FSU, in a response filed Wednesday to Ahmed’s lawsuit, denied liability for the incident, while asserting Ahmed’s injuries were the result of May’s actions.

“Despite the university’s sympathy for plaintiff and all of the students, employees and other members of the FSU community who were exposed to the shooting, it respectfully denies that it is liable in any sum or manner for the action of a madman,” the court document said.

FSU said campus police officers, aided by local law enforcement, “responded swiftly” to the shooting at Strozier Library “and their decisive actions saved lives.”

“The resources of the university were directed to those affected,” FSU’s response said. “Student safety has always been and remains a top concern of the University.”

May entered the library lobby shortly after midnight but failed to gain access to the main building because he could not get by turnstiles, which required an FSU student identification card to be activated.

May returned to the outside of the library where he began shooting, firing three shots at Ahmed, who had his spinal cord severed by the first shot while another shot embedded a bullet in his body “four centimeters from his heart,” according to the lawsuit.

May re-entered the library and found two FSU employees huddled beneath the security desk. He shot one employee in the leg before his gun jammed.

May returned outside where he continued firing his gun until he was killed by police officers.

Several key points are in dispute in the lawsuit, including Ahmed’s assertion that if May’s “suspicious” behavior, including the failure to get by the library turnstiles, had been reported immediately to campus police, the shooting may been prevented. FSU denied that characterization of the incident.

Ahmed’s lawsuit also raises a series of allegations questioning why there wasn’t stronger security at the library, including armed security officers. FSU used unarmed security guards who were trained to report problems to campus police.

In its response, FSU argued that it was the actions of May and not the university that resulted in the shooting.

“FSU affirmatively asserts that plaintiff’s claim fails because the University cannot be liable for the unknown and unforeseeable violent, intentional and/or criminal acts of a deranged third-party – Myron May,” the response said.

Ahmed and FSU are asking for a jury trial.

In another lawsuit resulting from the Strozier shooting, Paige McPhadden, a former student and FSU employee, refiled a civil-rights claim late last month in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, seeking back pay and medical costs from FSU.

McPhadden was one of the two school employees hiding under the security desk at the library when May shot her co-worker in the leg before his gun jammed.

Although McPhadden wasn’t shot, her lawsuit said the fact that May aimed the gun at her and pulled the trigger multiple times “still caused her great and long-lasting mental and emotional injuries.”

“Plaintiff endured the terror of having a mass shooter standing over her, knowing that his gun was pointing at her, knowing that she was the next target, believing that she was about to die,” the lawsuit said.

Among her allegations, McPhadden, who is an African-American woman, said she did not receive the same level of treatment after the incident as her co-worker, who is a white male.

She said she resigned from her job after she faced “retaliation” after raising discrimination charges about her treatment.

McPhadden’s lawsuit also raises allegations, similar to the Ahmed lawsuit, about the level of security at the Strozier Library on the night of the shooting.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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Lloyd Dunkelberger is a Tallahassee-based political reporter and columnist; he most recently served as Tallahassee bureau chief for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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