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Chattanooga Family to Sue Colombia for Their Loved One’s Murder

Family seeking justice overseas.

Chattanooga Family to Sue Colombia for Their Loved One’s Murder

Will Their Case Succeed?

A family from Chattanooga, Tennessee, is planning to sue the government of Colombia over the murder of their loved one, Gregory Owens, who was killed on the streets of Cartagena in October 2023 while on vacation. The family claims the Colombian government should have done more to safeguard Owens by keeping known criminals off the streets.

Five individuals have been arrested in connection with the murder. If convicted, they could be sentenced to over 30 years in prison. The details of the lawsuit are still in preliminary stages and nothing has been formally filed yet.

A Daunting Legal Challenge

While suing a foreign state might seem like an unprecedented action, this would not be the first time an American family has taken this course of action. In 2019, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian successfully sued the Iranian government for $180 million after being held captive in Iran. Another journalist won a similar case against Iran in 2000, signifying that such legal battles can be won.

What it Takes to Win?

Litigation of this magnitude is a complex process and according to Patrick Barrett, a partner with the Provost Umphrey Law Firm and an expert in such cases, the Owens family will face many hurdles. “In order to bring a case against a foreign government, you would need to show actions by the government that caused the harm. You would have to show something about the state actors themselves, as opposed to simple negligence that allows a criminal to commit crimes,” Barrett says.

Barrett suggests there would need to be evidence of terrorist activities or gang involvement related to this case, details of which remain unclear. However, Barrett concedes that with video evidence and legal representation in both America and Colombia, the case could still succeed.

The Road Ahead for the Owens Family

While the evidence needed to bring a successful case against the Colombian government is substantial, it does remain a possibility. “As a general matter for events that took place entirely in a foreign country where the witnesses are there, it would be very difficult to establish jurisdiction in the United States,” Barrett explains. “But it certainly is possible if the right facts are there.”

The United States State Department’s website mentions that the U.S maintains close cooperation with Colombia to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and disrupt transnational criminal organizations. This cooperation might play a pivotal role in the Owens’ family’s case.

The world will be watching as this Chattanooga family continues to seek justice for their lost loved one. HERE News Network will continue to provide updates as the Owens’ family’s case develops.

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