Parkland shooting site toured by members of Congress before reenactment

PARKLAND — Lawmakers and court officials gathered Friday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to reenact the worst school shooting in U.S. history and to tour the building where it happened one final time before it is demolished.

In all, 17 students and staff members died Feb. 14, 2018, when a teenage gunman went on a 6 minute, 22 second rampage that day. A jury last fall decided the gunman would spend life in prison for the murders.

A group entered the yellow-and-gray 1200 building at the rear of the campus at about 8:10 a.m. for the tour. They had waited in a single-file line, like students bearing backpacks and heading to class, before Broward County sheriff’s deputies opened the door.

The tour, which included several members of Congress, left the building at about 9:45 a.m.

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The 1200 building at Stoneman Douglas, known as the freshman building, has been preserved as an active crime scene since the day of the shooting. A group of reporters toured it with jurors during the gunman’s sentencing trial last year and compared it to a graveyard. The walls and floors are still stained with blood. Items from the students lay untouched on each of its three floors.

The reenactment is expected to begin between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and will include every one of the 139 shots fired that day and the triggering of fire alarms.

A bullet hole can be seen in a second floor window of the 1200 building, the crime scene where the 2018 shootings took place, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

It is part of a civil lawsuit against former Broward County school resource officer Scot Peterson, who did not enter the building or engage the teenage gunman at any point during the shooting.

A jury acquitted Peterson in June of all criminal charges stemming from his failure to rush into the building during the shooting. He said he couldn’t tell where the gunshots were coming from.

Attorneys representing the families of Stoneman Douglas students Meadow Pollack, Luke Hoyer, Alaina Petty, Alex Schachter and survivor Madeleine Wilford say the reenactment will prove that he knew and chose not to act.

Mark Eiglarsh, the defense attorney who represented Peterson during the officer’s criminal trial, called the reenactment traumatic, unnecessary and of “little to no evidentiary value.”

“During the trial, I called approximately two dozen witnesses, consisting of law enforcement officers, students, teachers, faculty and staff, who heard the same shots my client did,” Eiglarsh wrote in an email. “Most spoke of the pronounced reverberation and echo in that area due to the massive, multi-leveled concrete buildings.”

Many thought the shots were coming from the football field, he said — hundreds of yards away from where the shooter actually was. Eiglarsh called Friday’s reenactment an attempt to manufacture evidence “that cannot possibly be re-created with any degree of accuracy.”

“It’s insulting to those jurors, to the criminal justice system and unnecessarily traumatic to all the neighbors in that area,” he said.

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Seventeen other people were wounded in the Parkland gunfire, which came from a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle the gunman obtained not long before the shootings.

After their tour, lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland native who attended Stoneman Douglas as a teen, are expected to meet with parents whose children died or were wounded that day.

Other Florida members of U.S. House of Representatives who were scheduled to be on the tour included Mario Diaz-Balart, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Carlos A. Gimenez, John Rutherford, and Frederica Wilson. The districts of Moskowitz and Cherfilus-McCormick include parts of Palm Beach County.

The 1200 building’s demolition is expected to occur in the next few weeks.

Valentina Palm covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee and other western communities in Palm Beach County for The Palm Beach Post. Email her and follow her on Twitter at @ValenPalmB. Support local journalism:Subscribe today.

Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her


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