Parkland civil case: Judge to allow re-enactment of school shooting in lawsuit against former school resource officer


A Florida judge ruled Wednesday to allow reenactments of the 2018 mass shooting in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as part of a civil lawsuit against the former school resource officer who stood outside during the massacre.

Scot Peterson was found not guilty Criminal charges late last month after prosecutors accused him of ignoring his training and failing to confront the shooter, instead taking cover outside the building during the Feb. 14, 2018, attack in which 17 people, including 14 students, were killed and 17 others injured. Peterson argued that he did not enter the building because he could not tell where the gunshots were coming from because of the echoes from the Parkland, Florida, campus.

Peterson still faces civil action from several victims’ families and a survivor who want to reenact the shooting in an effort to prove the former Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy heard “over 70 gunshots and knew of where they come,” David Brill. , an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in court Wednesday, shortly before Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips indicated she would allow the reconstitution.

The defense will also be allowed to conduct a reenactment, and the two sides must coordinate so that it can be done either on the same day or on consecutive days before the start of the new academic year next month. Phillips said the reenactments must take place over the next month, and the court set a July 20 status hearing to make sure both sides are on track.

It remains to be seen whether the reenactment recordings would be admissible evidence at trial, but Phillips said that question will be addressed at a later date.

The plaintiffs’ motion sought permission to enter the building to conduct audio and video recordings during a “re-enactment that would parallel the killer’s movements and the gunfire inside” the three-story 1200 building, which was held pending his trial Peterson and the shooter. , who was sentenced last year to life in prison without parole.

“We’re going to use the same Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle, we’re going to use the same cartridge caliber — albeit with semi-automatics, what they call Full Metal Jacket semi-automatics. No rounds will be expelled,” Brill explained to the judge, saying he anticipated it would take about two hours. They will also activate and deactivate the fire alarm and use a golf cart to simulate Peterson’s arrival at the scene, Brill said.

Peterson arrived minutes after they started the fire and was not at the scene when the victims on the first floor were killed.

Scot Peterson, left, and defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh stand as the jury entered the courtroom to be dismissed on June 28, 2023.

The defense also wanted to do a re-enactment, said Michael Piper, an attorney for Peterson, though he disputed the use of the blanks, arguing they sounded nothing like live rounds. There were many variables that could not be accounted for, Piper said, and the reconstructions presented a “very dim possibility that this would even lead to anything that can be presented to a jury.”

Piper and a city attorney — who did not oppose the complaint — also expressed concerns about the potential trauma the recreations could cause to the community, especially people who live around the school. The judge was clear that adequate notice would be required throughout the community.

Jeffrey Tew, an attorney for the 16-year-old victim’s parents Carmen Schentrupexpressed support for the reenactment Wednesday, saying that “the real people who have suffered trauma in this matter are the families of the dead children and the injured children, all of whom authorized Mr. Brill to file this motion.

Custody of the building where the shooting took place was returned to the Broward County School District after it was with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. A judge ruled Wednesday that part of the campus is no longer considered a crime scene.

According to Interim Superintendent Dr. Earlean Smiley’s weekly report, plans to demolish the building will begin within 30 days of receiving access to the building.

“Once we receive the building, we will move quickly to demolish it, remove the resulting debris and restore the site to a state fit for future use,” Smiley said in the report.

Demolition will not be completed before school starts on Aug. 21, Smiley said.

At their requests, some of the families of those killed were allowed private tour building 1200 following the Peterson verdict.

“It looked like a war zone where a mass murderer hunted down and killed children and staff, and it was grotesque,” Max Schachter, the father of victim Alex Schachter, told CNN after going inside. “There was blood everywhere. I just wasn’t ready for it.”

But Schachter went, he said, because he “wanted to get into Alex’s classroom.”

“I wanted to sit in the chair where Alex took his last breath and was killed, and it was just incredible.”

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