The parents of Michelle Fournier, a woman killed in a hair salon shooting that left eight people dead and one wounded, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the alleged shooter. The alleged gunman, Scott Dekraai, is Fournier’s ex-husband. The lawsuit asks the court to freeze Dekraai’s assets. According to the family’s attorney, their goal is to obtain compensation for Fournier and Dekraai’s eight year-old son, who is left effectively orphaned by the incident.
The family of another woman killed in the salon, Christy Wilson, has also filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against Dekraai. Her husband alleges in the suit that she “lingered for a ‘significant’ period of time before she died,” and seeks compensation for hospital and funeral costs and loss of “love, care, companionship.” The two lawsuits will likely proceed alongside, but independent of, the criminal prosecution.
Dekraai had taken Fournier to court to modify their child custody arrangement, hoping to get more time with their son. A court-appointed psychologist recommended that the court keep the existing custody plan in place. On October 12, 2011, Dekraai allegedly drove to the salon in Seal Beach, California where Fournier worked, armed with three handguns and wearing a bulletproof vest. According to police and Dekraai’s own statements to police, he shot eight people in the salon, killing seven, including Fournier and Wilson. He then shot and killed a man sitting in a car in the parking lot, telling police later that he thought the man might be a police officer reaching for a weapon.
Police arrested Dekraai shortly after he left the salon. He reportedly offered a full confession to investigators, admitting to all of the shootings and offering explanations for his actions. Prosecutors have charged Dekraai with eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, one for each shooting victim. They have announced that they will seek the death penalty. His arraignment is scheduled for November 29.
There are several key differences between the criminal and civil ases. The claims brought by the families for Fournier and Wilson seek civil damages for wrongful death. The criminal case, brought by prosecutors who work for the state of California, seek to punish Dekraai in the criminal justice system. The desired outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit is always monetary damages, while a criminal prosecution seeks fines, imprisonment, or sometimes the death penalty.