Anne Ramsay, mother of Parkland High School shooting victim Helena Ramsay, speaks to the media during a news conference on Friday, June 15, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The family is suing to obtain mental health records of shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Parkland mom: 'Shooter may as well have just shot us'

June 15, 2018 - 7:33 pm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Helena Ramsay was wise beyond her years, shy until you got to know her and discovered she had a wicked wit. She dreamed of seeing the pink dolphins in the Brazilian rainforest — a dream her mother said was cut short by the gunman who killed Ramsay and 16 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Anne and Vinnie Ramsay spoke publicly Friday for the first time since the February massacre. The couple is asking a mental health facility that treated Nikolas Cruz, who's charged with the shootings, to release the teen's records from the years leading up to the shooting. It's the first step to prepare for a possible malpractice or wrongful death case. Henderson Behavioral Health has also been sued by other victims' families.

While mental health and other medical records are protected by law, there are times when public interest overcomes the law, said their attorney Craig Goldenfarb.

"One of my jobs is to figure out everybody ... that may have had an opportunity to prevent this tragedy and did not," he said.

"Perhaps (Henderson) dropped the ball and they should have Baker Acted Mr. Cruz," said Goldenfarb, referring to an involuntary hospitalization which should have prevented Cruz from buying a gun.

Josh Walker, an attorney for Henderson, said the company supports releasing the records but needs a judge to issue a court order allowing it.

Health records are generally protected by state and federal privacy laws but can be released in criminal and civil court cases. Since Cruz is not a plaintiff in any civil case, Walker said a judge must order the records released.

"Henderson has nothing to hide. In fact, Henderson wants these records out there for the public to see," he said. "We are not allowed to release these records under state and federal law unless we get a court order."

Walker said the company would support a court order allowing attorneys for all victims' families who file lawsuits to have access to Cruz's records. Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Cruz's criminal case have already obtained the records, but they have not been released publicly.

Helena, a junior who watched Jeopardy daily, was considering studying abroad. She was intrigued by the United Nations, and would have been a great asset thanks to her sensible way of thinking, family said.

"She was blossoming. She would have definitely been a leader," her mother said.

She was always thinking about others, travelling to Orlando for a concert after the Pulse night club massacre to support the community, her mother said.

And even in her final moments, she was ordering her best friend to grab a book to shield herself from the gunman's bullets as they huddled behind a bookcase, holding hands.

Her parents and their attorney said numerous red flags regarding Cruz were missed over the years by local authorities, the FBI and potentially Henderson Behavioral Health. They want a thorough investigation to ensure no other family has to endure a similar nightmare.

At home, a stack of condolence cards and tokens lays untouched, too painful to open. The couple has found comfort meeting with a group of other Parkland parents who also lost their children in the shooting.

"We do meet up. We do support each other and it's just tough. We're grateful we do have the group that we can just sit and share," said Anne Ramsay.

The family said they refuse to let the memory of Helena and the other children get lost.

"They all had special skills, strengths, just beautiful children. None of them should have been put in that situation where they're struggling to defend themselves or survive," said the grieving mother.

The Ramsays are intensely private and said they declined to speak until now because they needed time to heal and come to terms with their loss.

"I've just been disabled," said Anne Ramsay. "It's like the active shooter may as well have just shot us, you know. It affects everyone."

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