Ballistics Experts to Reenact Parkland School Shooting in Scot Peterson Civil Suit

Up to 139 rounds of live ammunition will be fired Friday while technicians record from outside, seeking to recreate what Peterson heard during the attack.

Ballistics Experts to Reenact Parkland School Shooting in Scot Peterson Civil Suit

Photo: Katherine Welles, Adobe Stock

PARKLAND, Fla. — More than 100 gunshots will be fired inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Friday during a reenactment of the 2018 shooting as part of a civil lawsuit filed against then-assigned deputy Scot Peterson and his employer, the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Ballistics experts hired by victims’ families will conduct the reenactment and technicians will record the sound of gunfire from outside, seeking to recreate what Peterson heard during the attack, reports AP News. In June, Peterson was found not guilty of felony neglect and other charges stemming from his failure to enter the building during the six-minute massacre that claimed 17 lives and injured 17 others. He is the first law enforcement officer charged with child neglect as a “caregiver,” a title prosecutors said he held because he was the school resource officer assigned to protect the school.

Peterson said he didn’t hear all of the gunshots and couldn’t pinpoint where they were coming from because of echoes. He got within feet of the building’s door and drew his gun but then retreated and stood next to an adjoining building where he made radio calls for 40 minutes. Peterson claimed he would have charged into the building if he knew that’s where the shooter was.

The families who filed the civil suit said Peterson knew the shooter’s location but retreated out of cowardice and in violation of his duty to protect students. Tony Montalto, president of Stand with Parkland, which represents most of the families, said while Peterson was acquitted of criminal charges, it “doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of failing to do the right things.”

“He failed to properly react to the tragedy, he failed to enter the building and he failed to render aid,” said Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter, Gina, died in the shooting. “The reenactment is designed to disprove some of the statements that were made during the criminal trial.”

Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruled on July 12 that attorneys on both sides could create a video from the reenactment but said she was not ruling on whether the recordings will be played at trial, according to WPBF. No trial date has been set.

Experts will fire up to 139 rounds of live ammunition inside a three-story classroom building from the same spots as the shooter using an identical AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. The bullets will be caught by a safety device.

Robert Maher, a Montana State University professor who has studied the accuracy of gunfire recordings, told AP News that the audio gathered from the reenactment won’t accurately depict the sounds of gunfire because the sounds are much sharper in person and speakers can’t reproduce the sound. Tamara Lave, a University of Miami Law professor, said when Phillips decides whether to allow the jury to view and hear the reenactment, she has to decide whether it “fairly and accurately” depicts what Peterson heard.

Parkland sent warnings to its residents alerting them of the reenactment. Some have argued the reenactment will further traumatize the community, Newsweek reports.

“Cannot understand why this reenactment is necessary,” one Facebook user wrote. “This borders on insanity.”

“As a survivor of the shooting myself, I personally am glad to see ANYTHING that needs to be done to get Scot Peterson held accountable for not doing anything that day,” another person countered.

Eagles’ Haven, a community wellness center that opened after the shooting, is offering several activities Friday, including yoga, tai chi, a drum circle, and medication.

“When you are feeling triggered, it is good to be with other people who understand what you are going through,” said Sarah Franco, the center’s director.

Broward County Public Schools says it will begin demolishing the building after the reenactment.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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