Attorney General Coffman Establishes Mass Tragedy Victims Fund Before Leaving Office

December 11, 2018
Photo: Arapahoe High School memorial (AP Photo)
In this December 2013 file photo, Arapahoe High School students hug at a tribute site for fatally-wounded student Claire Davis, who was shot by classmate Karl Pierson during a school attack six days earlier at Arapahoe High School, in Centennial, Colo.

Outgoing Attorney General Cynthia Coffman launched a non-profit victim fund on Tuesday to help Coloradans affected by mass tragedy.

Coffman, a Republican who leaves her office in January, is seeding the effort with $1 million earned from consumer fraud settlements out of her office, and hopes the group will raise more money going forward.

Supporters pointed out that more than $63 million was spent after the Boston Marathon bombing to help victims, survivors and families.

“We have dealt with the unexpected nature of violent tragedy and the way it forever alters those in its destructive path,” Coffman said. “We identified a gap that needed to be filled, the designation of a private fund for victims of a mass violence incident.”

The money will be designated for victims of terrorist attacks or mass tragedies sparked by a criminal act,but not from natural disasters.

Coffman said talks about starting the fund started back in 2016, but the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas at a country music festival “energized” efforts. 

Coffman, who was working with the Nevada attorney general after the Las Vegas shooting, said that the state struggled to meet the needs of so many victims and families.

“Our state unfortunately has had more than its share of experience with this kind of event, from the tragic shootings at Columbine High School to the homicides at Youth with a Mission and New Life Church, the attack on Planned Parenthood and the Aurora theater shooting,” she said.

Frank DeAngelis, former Columbine High principal who now speaks to other victims of school shootings, said he is still in therapy from the mass shooting. It’s just one example of a victims’ needs after an attack lasting for decades, he said.

“They’re still my kids, even though they’re 37, 38 year-old adults,” DeAngelis said, speaking at a press briefing announcing the victim’s fund. “We had adults suffering five years, 10 years, 15 years out.”

Financial assistance for mass tragedy victims can go to medical and therapeutic needs, or even help victims pay for a rental car if their vehicle has been impounded for police evidence. The money can pay for rent or a mortgage if the victim needs surgery and needs to take time off work. Funds can support an additional sets of car keys if victims have to drop everything and run, leaving personal belongings behind at a crime scene, supporters of the program said.

Coffman also said the fund provides a safe way for people to donate in times of tragedy, when scam artists often pop up to take advantage of people when they are vulnerable, she said.

Outside of crisis times, the Colorado Healing Fund will conduct and pay for crisis management trainings for law enforcement and first responders in how to help in chaotic, emergency scenes.

“We hope we never have to use the Colorado Healing Fund to respond to a tragedy,” Coffman said. “But we owe it to Coloradans to take what we have learned from previous tragedies.

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