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Theater Shooting Victims’ Families Want Charities To Be Investigated

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An image of the victims' families (credit: CBS)

An image of the victims’ families (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (AP) – Eleven families of people killed in the shootings at an Aurora movie theater asked state officials on Tuesday to investigate a charity that has collected $5.2 million for victims.

The families contend Community First Foundation and its affiliate Giving First broke state law by failing to get their permission before using the slain victims’ photographs on a Facebook page and website that encouraged donations.

The families say the foundation also implied that contributions to its Aurora Victim Relief Fund would go to victims’ families, but Giving First has said about $100,000 went to nonprofit groups. They said they’re concerned about where the donations are going.

A foundation representative didn’t return an email seeking comment Tuesday. However, the foundation has said on its website that it gained the benefit of expertise and additional accountability by working through established nonprofit organizations such as Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, which has agreed that money it receives from the relief fund will go directly to victims and their families.

So far the families of the 12 people killed and 58 injured in the July 20 attack have each received $5,000 for a total of $350,000 distributed to families.

The state attorney general’s office and the secretary of state’s office said they were reviewing the families’ letter.

Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed in the theater attack, said he didn’t expect state officials to take action.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced last month that mediator Ken Feinberg, who oversaw compensation for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, has agreed to oversee the distribution of remaining donations to theater victims. Feinberg planned to meet with victims and their families Thursday and Friday to gather input on protocols for dispersing remaining funds.

Lonnie Phillips, whose stepdaughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the theater, said Feinberg wouldn’t have gotten involved if not for victims’ families speaking up about concerns about Giving First. Phillips said while not everyone may like how Feinberg decides to distribute donations, Feinberg is experienced and knowledgeable.

“Nobody’s going to be completely happy, but if we can get money dispersed to victims, that’s at least good enough for me,” he said.

Phillips said any money his family receives would be used in Ghawi’s memory to limit access to automatic weapons. “I want to spend the rest of my years fighting what happened to our daughter,” said Phillips, 68, of San Antonio.

LINK: The Letter To John Suthers

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