Experts on Friday will act out the 2018 Florida school shooting with live rounds of ammunition that can be heard as far as a mile away in a move that some residents are calling “insane” and “horrific.”
The reenactment is part of a lawsuit brought by victims’ families against the school’s former officer, Scot Peterson, and his employer, 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.”
The community is still reeling from the Valentine’s Day massacre that left 17 dead and another 17 injured when former student Nikolas Cruz, now 24, stalked three floors of the classroom building with an assault rifle in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
Cruz pleaded guilty in 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison.
Ballistics experts will fire up to 139 shots inside the building as technicians outside record the sound of the gunfire, seeking to simulate what Peterson heard.
Peterson, 60, was acquitted in June of felony child neglect and other criminal charges for failing to enter the building, engage the gunman and help the victims during the six-minute rampage.
But the burden of proof in a civil case is much lower.
At his criminal trial, his lawyers argued he could not hear all the shots due to echoes, and he would have acted differently if he knew the shooter was in the building.
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.”
Attorneys representing the families of victims say the reenactment will prove that Peterson could hear the carnage that unfolded inside and could have saved lives.
Hunter Pollack, 26, the brother of slain student Meadow Pollack, whose family is a plaintiff in the suit, said he empathizes with members of the community who may be traumatized by the demonstration but called it necessary.
“[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.
Tony Montalto, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Gina, agreed with Hunter Pollack.
Peterson’s acquittal of criminal charges “doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of failing to do the right things,” Montalto said.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina perished in the shooting, called out Peterson for cowardice.
“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.
His daughter was on the first floor and was murdered before Peterson arrived.
“If he had had the courage to stop the killer other lives could have been saved,” he added.
Attorney David Brill, who is leading the reenactment, did not return a call seeking comment. Peterson’s attorney, Michael Piper, declined to comment.
Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips agreed to allow the demonstration but has yet to rule on whether the recording will be admissible at trial.
The ballistics experts will retrace Cruz’s steps through the building, which has been preserved as a crime scene for more than five years.
The floors are still covered with dried blood, deflated balloons and wilted flowers.
After the reenactment, the Broward school district said it will start demolishing the building, which has remained behind a chain-link fence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.