A fund created to help victims of Tucson's Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting is dissolving.
The Tucson Together Fund's board has voted to distribute the remaining funds and cease operations, said Bill Carnegie, chairman of the fund's board of directors.
Carnegie said the impetus for disbanding was a combination of the conclusion of the federal court case against convicted shooter Jared L. Loughner in November and the subsequent decision by the Pima County Attorney's Office not to pursue its own case against Loughner.
In the two years that the fund was active, it collected $520,000 from donations, and it was the only officially sanctioned fund established to assist the shooting's victims, families and witnesses.
Carnegie said donations were drying up, as were claims from victims.
All but $50,000 of the fund went to victims of the shooting and their families. The $50,000 was set aside for the Homicide Survivors organization for any future claims from Jan. 8 victims, should they arise.
Six people died in the massacre, which occurred at a congressional meet-and-greet hosted by then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a northwest-side shopping plaza. Killed were Christina-Taylor Green, 9; Dorothy Morris, 76; U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63; Phyllis Schneck, 79; Dorwan Stoddard, 76; and Gabriel Zimmerman, 30. Thirteen others, including Giffords, were injured.
"We were thinking there would be two trials, one after the other, and that it would take eight to 10 years. And that didn't happen, fortunately for the victims here," said Kent Burbank, director of the victim services division at the Pima County Attorney's Office, which managed victim claims from the shooting.
Victims filed claims for expenses such as lost wages, funeral costs, travel expenses to court hearings and medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Compensation came from three sources of funding - a national crime victim compensation fund, a federal anti-terrorism grant the county received for its response to Jan. 8, and the Tucson Together Fund. The government victims fund, which comes from fines and fees on criminals, has limited parameters, as did the grant money. The Tucson Together Fund helped fill in the gaps, Burbank said.
In addition to reimbursing expenses, the fund gave three lump-sum payments of $5,000 to victims, plus another lump sum when the fund was disbanded after the board's January vote - $12,000 to families whose loved one died, and $5,000 to those who were shot and injured, Burbank said. Some people who were not wounded by a bullet but were at the scene and shot at, or otherwise injured, received $2,500 each.
"We had some medical expenses, but most victims had insurance," Burbank said. "Some victims didn't submit any claims at all."
Several families did not keep the lump-sum payments. Rather, they directed the money to charity, often in honor of their loved one, Burbank said.
"We started the fund for the long term, but what we discovered was contributions started to wane and claims from victims started to wane," Carnegie said. "We didn't want to be one of those funds that just hangs onto money. I absolutely believe it was the right thing to do."
On Nov. 8, Loughner was sentenced in federal court to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison without parole. He waived rights to an appeal. The seven life terms represent each of the six lives he took plus the attempted assassination of Giffords, who continues to recover from being shot through the brain.
Also on Nov. 8, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall announced that at the request of the victims, she would not seek to prosecute Loughner on behalf of the state.
DONATIONS TO FUND ARE STILL WELCOME
Remaining money from the Tucson Together Fund will be transferred to Homicide Survivors, and donations are still welcome for any future claims from Jan. 8 victims.
The website is azhomicidesurvivors.org
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at email@example.com or 573-4134.