Judge Allows Reenactment of Parkland School Massacre on Campus as Part of Lawsuit against Deputy

by Joshua Brown

A judge ruled on Wednesday that the 2018 Parkland high school massacre will be reenacted twice on campus, involving the firing of approximately 140 blanks. This reenactment is part of the families’ lawsuits against the former sheriff’s deputy, whom they accuse of failing to prevent the gunman’s actions.

Attorney David Brill’s motion was granted by Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips. Brill believes that his recorded video reenactment will provide evidence proving that former Broward Deputy Scot Peterson was aware of the shooter firing inside a three-story classroom building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, but chose not to intervene.

Phillips also granted the request made by Peterson’s attorney, Michael Piper, who expressed skepticism about the validity of such reenactments but acknowledged that his side would need to conduct one as well. Although Peterson was acquitted of criminal charges related to inaction, the civil case against him, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and others operates under different laws and rules of evidence, with a lower standard of proof.

It should be noted that the judge’s ruling does not address whether the reenactments will be presented to the jury during the trial, as no schedule has been set for the trial itself.

“The decision on that matter will be made another day,” Phillips stated. She intends to review the recordings of the reenactments and hear arguments regarding their accuracy in reflecting what Peterson heard.

The families of the 17 individuals killed and 26 injured are pursuing unspecified damages in their joint lawsuits.

The judge ordered that the reenactments take place before the end of the school’s summer break next month, with sufficient warning provided to nearby residents. She specified that the reenactments should occur on the same or consecutive days.

These reenactments will be based on surveillance videos from the school, which captured the actions and locations of Peterson and shooter Nikolas Cruz second-by-second during the six-minute attack.

Actors portraying Cruz will discharge approximately 140 blanks from firearms identical to the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle he used, firing from the same positions on each floor. The school’s fire alarms will be triggered at the same time they were during the actual shooting.

Meanwhile, actors playing Peterson, equipped with recording devices, will replicate his actions as he traveled in a golf cart from his office, located approximately 100 yards (90 meters) away from the classroom building. Peterson was dropped off roughly 10 yards (nine meters) from the building about two minutes after the shooting began.

Upon arrival, Peterson approached a door and drew his handgun, but then retreated, seeking cover next to a neighboring building. He remained there for 40 minutes, well after the shooting had ended and other law enforcement officers had entered the building, making radio calls to dispatchers and other deputies.

The families of the victims and the injured individuals maintain that Peterson could have entered the building and confronted Cruz, or at the very least, diverted his attention, potentially saving the lives of the six individuals killed and four wounded after Peterson’s arrival.

Peterson, 60, claims that he couldn’t determine the shooter’s location due to echoes and that he would have rushed inside if he had known where Cruz was. Shortly after the incident, he retired but was subsequently fired retroactively.

Brill argued before the judge that the reenactment is necessary because they don’t want to leave anything to chance and want to ensure that Peterson does not evade justice in this civil case, as he did in the criminal trial.

According to Brill, the reenactment will provide “equally compelling evidence” that Peterson was aware that the shots were originating from the building and should have investigated further. Brill believes that Peterson did observe through the door, despite the deputy’s denial.

“He could hear the cacophony of the gun discharge of a …. rifle that was about 50 yards (40 meters) from his position,” Brill claimed. If Peterson had looked, he would have seen “deceased people, blood, the shooter, the shooter’s jacket that he threw on the floor.”

Piper expressed doubts about the accuracy of the reenactments, arguing that blanks do not replicate the sound of real bullets, and accurately recreating Cruz’s gun’s direction and angle is impossible. Moreover, the presence of hundreds of people in the building, others in the vicinity, and cars in the parking lot would have muffled and deflected the sounds.

“It is unlikely that this evidence will be reliable,” Piper stated. “There are too many variables that cannot be accounted for.”

Piper emphasized that witness testimonies about what they heard would constitute the most valuable evidence. During Peterson’s criminal trial, some witnesses testified that they knew where the shots were coming from, while others were uncertain or incorrect about the shooter’s location.

It remains uncertain whether the reenactments will impede the school district’s plan to demolish the classroom building. The building has been cordoned off with a chain-link barrier as evidence in both the criminal cases against Cruz and Peterson, while the rest of the campus reopened to students in 2018. Cruz’s penalty trial jury visited the building last year, but the judge overseeing Peterson’s trial rejected a prosecution motion to allow his jury to do the same.

Over the past week, victims’ families, the injured, and teachers were given the opportunity to tour the building, should they choose to do so.

Cruz, a 24-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student, received a life sentence last year when his jury could not unanimously agree on the death penalty.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about reenactment

What is the purpose of the reenactment in the Parkland school massacre case?

The reenactment is being conducted as part of a civil case against the former sheriff’s deputy accused of inaction during the Parkland school massacre. It aims to provide evidence to support the plaintiffs’ claim that the deputy knew about the shooter but failed to intervene.

Will the reenactment be presented to the jury during the trial?

The judge has not yet ruled on whether the reenactments will be allowed as evidence in the trial. The decision regarding the presentation of reenactment recordings to the jury will be made at a later date, after a review of the recordings and consideration of arguments regarding their accuracy.

What is the timeline for the reenactments?

The judge has ordered that the reenactments take place before the end of the school’s summer break, which is scheduled to end next month. The reenactments are expected to occur on the same or consecutive days to ensure accuracy.

What will the reenactments involve?

The reenactments will be based on school surveillance videos that captured the actions and locations of the deputy and the shooter during the attack. Actors playing the shooter will fire blanks from similar firearms used in the actual incident, while actors portraying the deputy will replicate his actions and movements.

What are the arguments made by both sides regarding the accuracy of the reenactments?

The attorney representing the plaintiffs believes that the reenactment will provide compelling evidence that the deputy knew about the shooter’s location and failed to act. The deputy’s attorney, however, argues that the reenactments may not accurately depict what the deputy heard and that there are various variables that cannot be accounted for.

How does the outcome of the civil case differ from the criminal case?

The deputy was acquitted of criminal charges related to inaction in the Parkland school massacre. However, the civil case operates under different laws and rules of evidence, with a lower standard of proof. The outcome of the civil case could result in potential damages for the deputy and other defendants.

More about reenactment

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Bookworm123 July 12, 2023 - 9:38 pm

It’s heartbreaking to think about the victims and their families in this tragic event. The reenactments could provide crucial evidence. I hope justice is served and lessons are learned from this.

JohnDoe82 July 13, 2023 - 12:50 pm

omg, the deputy was acquitted in the criminal case but now there’s a civil case against him? crazy! i can’t believe he retired and got fired later. those reenactments sound like a big deal, hope they’re fair.

Anonymous July 13, 2023 - 3:43 pm

wow, this is a really intense case, reenactments and all! i wonder if they’ll show it to the jury and if it’ll be accurate or not. so much at stake here!


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