The D.C. government has agreed to pay $740,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the husband of an FBI agent who was slain five years ago in a gunman's rampage at D.C. police headquarters, according to lawyers in the case.
Martha Dixon Martinez was among three law enforcement officials killed Nov. 22, 1994, when Bennie Lee Lawson Jr. brought his compact assault pistol into police headquarters and opened fire in a third-floor office. Martinez's husband, FBI supervisor George Martinez, sued the District in D.C. Superior Court, alleging that officials failed to adequately safeguard the building.
A jury ruled in Martinez's favor in March 1997, awarding him $1.7 million in damages. But the District government filed appeals, and Martinez and his attorneys decided to pursue settlement talks to put the issue behind them.
"This was a good settlement for a difficult case," said Ron Simon, Martinez's attorney, adding that the agreement was reached earlier in the fall. "It puts a difficult public issue and personal issue to rest."
Eugene Adams, a spokesman for the D.C. corporation counsel's office, said Mayor Anthony A. Williams recently signed off on the settlement. D.C. officials believe the agreement is a "fair resolution," Adams said.
Lawson, 25, who had been questioned a week before the shootings about a triple slaying, walked into police headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave. NW, took an elevator to the third floor and entered the office of the Cold Case Squad, a police-FBI task force that investigates old unsolved homicides. He then opened fire, shooting one victim after another, authorities said. Martha Dixon Martinez managed to shoot Lawson, knocking his gun out of his hand. But Lawson had shot her, too, and she dropped her weapon. Lawson picked up her gun, shot her in the back and head, and then turned the gun on himself.
Also slain that day were FBI agent Michael John Miller, 41, and D.C. police Sgt. Henry Joseph "Hank" Daly, 51. Another FBI agent, John Kuchta, was shot five times and survived. Daly's family was barred by law from filing suit against his employer. The other agents' families took no legal action.
Martha Dixon Martinez, 35, joined the FBI in 1987 and moved to Washington five years later. Her husband said he filed the lawsuit because he wanted to hold the District accountable for not having metal detectors and other safeguards that might have prevented Lawson from staging the attack. Metal detectors have since been installed, along with other security improvements.
George Martinez, who is assigned to the FBI's field office in Baltimore, was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Area law enforcement officials plan to honor Martinez, Miller and Daly on Monday in a ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.