Judge orders release of Parkland school shooting videos
The video clips won’t be released until noon Thursday at the earliest
By David Ovalle
MIAMI — A judge on Monday ordered the release of video footage expected to shine another spotlight on the Broward Sheriff’s Office response in the initial minutes of the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 people.
The video clips, however, won’t be released until noon Thursday at the earliest. That delay was to give investigators time to blur the faces of any students or witnesses who may appear in the clips. The extra days will also give the Broward School District time to appeal, if it wants.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Miami Herald, the Sun Sentinel and other media outlets against BSO and the school district, seeking release of video clips so that the public can “be given the firsthand opportunity to review and evaluate the video and the actions of its government officials.”
The media outlets filed the suit after Sheriff Scott Israel publicly described footage that showed a school resource deputy did not enter Building 12 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to engage the shooter during the Feb. 14 attack.
BSO deputy Scot Peterson, who has since resigned from the force, has been widely condemned for failing to engage Nikolas Cruz during his six-minute rampage firing his AR-15 at students and staff. Through his attorney, Peterson has insisted he acted properly under BSO training.
At a hearing last week, prosecutors said the release of the footage would harm the active investigation into Nikolas Cruz, who is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
BSO, however, has changed its mind and is now supporting the release of the footage. Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson, in an eight-page ruling Monday, said prosecutors did not prove how the footage could hamper the ongoing investigation.
The school district also said the release of the footage could be harmful by revealing information about the cameras in the schools. The judge, however, said the “potential harm to the current security system, minimal at best, is outweighed by the strong public interest in disclosure.”
The Broward State Attorney’s Office said Monday that it would not appeal the decision.
The ruling came on the same day that the Broward Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Cruz, filed a request asking the judge in the criminal case to bar BSO from releasing to the media jail records that detail the defendant’s mental health woes. Last week, BSO released jail logs that show Cruz was on suicide watch and had been at the jail’s infirmary. The Public Defender’s Office said that was private medical information.
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