Some locals are condemning the decision to have experts recreate the 2018 Florida school massacre using live rounds of ammunition that can be heard from a mile away as “insane” and “horrific.”
The recreation is part of a lawsuit filed by the relatives of the victims against Scot Peterson, the former officer at the school, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is horrific. Our town has been through enough,” Whitney Miller wrote in a Facebook post responding to a news story about the closure of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus and nearby roads for the demonstration.
“Cannot understand why this reenactment is necessary,” wrote Valerie Lawless. “This borders on insanity. Haven’t the families of the victims suffered enough? Just let it go.”
One of the bloodiest school shootings in American history, the Valentine’s Day massacre left 17 people dead and another 17 injured. Former student Nikolas Cruz, now 24, roamed three floors of the classroom building with an assault weapon.
Cruz entered a guilty plea in 2021 and received a life sentence.
In an effort to replicate what Peterson heard, ballistics specialists will fire up to 139 bullets within the structure while technicians outside record the sound of the gunshots.
The 60-year-old Peterson was cleared in June of felony child neglect charges as well as other counts related to his failure to enter the building, confront the shooter, and assist the victims during the six-minute rampage.
However, in a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof is substantially lighter.
His attorneys claimed he could not hear all the gunshots because of echos and that he would have reacted otherwise had he known the shooter was inside the structure during his criminal trial.
As he waited outside for backup, he radioed: “Be advised we have possible — could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired, 1200 building.”
The reenactment, according to attorneys for the families of the victims, will demonstrate that Peterson was aware of the bloodshed occurring inside and had the opportunity to intervene to save lives.
Hunter Pollack, 26, the brother of Meadow Pollack, a teenager who was killed, whose family is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he understands how the demonstration may have traumatised some residents of the neighbourhood but still deemed it important.
“[Peterson] wasn’t held accountable criminally, and if this is the only way to hold him accountable, then it should be done,” he told Fox News Digital.
Hunter Pollack concurred, as did Tony Montalto, who lost his daughter Gina, who was 14 years old.
Peterson’s acquittal of criminal charges “doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of failing to do the right things,” Montalto said.
Ryan Petty criticised Peterson for being a coward after his daughter Alaina lost her life in the shooting.
“I’ve stood at the doorstep of the 1200 building where Scot Peterson went and retreated and stood behind a pillar for 48 minutes, frozen, while innocent lives were taken, while other officers arrived, looked for the killer and rendered medical aid,” said the father, who is not a plaintiff in the civil suit.
Prior to Peterson’s arrival, his daughter, who was on the first level, was murdered.
“If he had had the courage to stop the killer other lives could have been saved,” he added.
A phone for comment was not returned from the reenactment’s director, attorney David Brill. Michael Piper, Peterson’s lawyer, declined to respond to a question.
Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips of the Circuit Court approved the demonstration but has not yet decided whether the recording will be allowed to be played during the trial.
The building, which has been kept intact as a crime scene for more than five years, will be retraced by the ballistics specialists in Cruz’s footsteps.
Still lying on the floors are dried blood, deflated balloons, and withered flowers.
The Broward school system announced that it will begin dismantling the facility, which has remained hidden behind a chain-link fence, after the reenactment.