OAN’s Geraldyn Berry
5:40 PM – Friday, August 4, 2023
Ballistics experts fired at least 140 bullets at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday in a significant reenactment of the tragic 2018 Parkland massacre as part of an ongoing lawsuit that accuses former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson of failing in his duty to protect the victims.
Democrat Congressman Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) and Republican Congressman Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.) led a congressional delegation party on a tour of the facility prior to the reenactment. The reenactment aimed to capture the auditory experience Peterson had during the six-minute attack that left 17 dead, and 17 wounded.
Nikolas Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas student, was found guilty in 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison for carrying out the horrific attack.
Tony Montalto, president of Stand with Parkland, a group representing most of the families affected by the tragedy, emphasized that Peterson’s acquittal on criminal charges does not absolve him of his failure to take appropriate action during the attack. Montalto’s daughter, Gina, was among those who tragically lost their lives that day.
The reenactment began at the same entrance the shooter had used to enter. It then moved in the same direction during the six-minute assault.
During the reenactment, technicians stationed outside a three-story classroom building meticulously recording the sound of gunfire to replicate the conditions Peterson encountered that fateful day. Peterson claimed to not have heard all the shots. Therefore, he stated that he could not have discerned their source due to echoes. Peterson has maintained that he would have charged into the building had he known the shooter’s location.
It is alleged that the former deputy had approached the building’s entrance, drew his weapon, but ultimately decided to stand by an adjoining building for 40 minutes while making radio calls.
As the reenactment unfolded, Robert Maher, a professor from Montana State University with expertise in gunfire recordings, noted that the sharpness of gunshots in person can be challenging to replicate accurately through speakers. Nevertheless, the reenactment may still provide valuable insights into the loudness and direction of the shots as Peterson perceived them in proximity to the sealed classroom building.
The families of the victims who have filed the lawsuit contend that Peterson was aware of Cruz’s whereabouts but chose to retreat out of cowardice and in violation of his duty to protect the students and staff. While Peterson was acquitted of felony child neglect and other criminal charges in June, the burden of proof is lower in a civil lawsuit, allowing the reenactment to proceed.
The experts conducting the reenactment reportedly fired live ammunition from the same positions as Cruz, using an identical AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. The bullets will be safely captured to avoid any risks.
University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave explained that Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips would consider whether the reenactment fairly and accurately depicts what Peterson heard when deciding whether the recording will be allowed as evidence during the trial. The goal is to offer insights into Peterson’s actions and decisions during the tragic event.
In preparation for the reenactment, Parkland authorities sent warnings to residents to prevent panic in response to the sound of gunshots. Additionally, Eagles’ Haven, a community wellness center established after the shooting, arranged several programs on Friday, including yoga, tai chi, a drum circle, meditation, and food to facilitate discussions among those seeking emotional support.
As the community braces for the reenactment’s emotional impact, the Parkland school district has announced its intention to begin demolishing the building after the event. The building has remained standing as evidence throughout the criminal trials of both Cruz and Peterson, serving as a haunting reminder of the tragedy that occurred on that devastating Valentine’s day.
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