Florida school shooting to be re-enacted as part of civil lawsuit

(Reuters) – One of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history will be re-enacted on Friday at the Florida school where a former student killed 17 people in 2018, as plaintiffs in a lawsuit seek to show a police officer stationed outside intentionally avoided confronting the gunman.

Scot Peterson, the school resource officer on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, was armed but never went inside the building as the shooting unfolded, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and surveillance video.

Peterson, who will observe the re-enactment but not participate in it, has said he was unable to determine the source of the gunshots. Lawyers for the victims’ families have said the re-enactment would prove that Peterson heard the 70-plus shots but chose to avoid the gunman.

Friday’s re-enactment is part of a civil case against Peterson in which victims’ families and survivors are seeking unspecified damages. In June, Peterson was acquitted by a Florida jury of criminal charges of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury connected the shooting.

Peterson’s lawyer, Michael Piper, said in a statement that multiple witnesses had testified in the criminal case that they perceived shots coming from all over the campus.

Plaintiffs in the civil suit are now staging “a video and audio-recorded, choreographed reenactment to counter the testimony of the people who were there that day,” Piper said.

David Brill, the families’ attorney in the civil suit, did not respond to a request for comment.

Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips of the Broward County Circuit Court has not yet ruled on whether the audio and video recordings of the re-enactment will be admissible at trial. No media will be permitted at the re-enactment.

The building where the shooting took place is scheduled to be demolished after the re-enactment, according to Phillips’ order allowing it to proceed. It has remained largely unaltered since the 2018 shooting, with bloodstains and bullet holes still visible.

Broward County Public Schools has notified families at all schools in the area so they “can make plans that best fit their needs on the day of the re-enactment.” A local wellness center will be open all weekend.

Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school who was 19 at the time of the massacre, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole in 2022.

(Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)