By Alta Spells, Carlos Suarez and Denise Royal, CNN
(CNN) — Some families of those killed in the 2018 massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school will get to visit the site beginning Wednesday, the Broward County state attorney’s office said.
At their request, some families and surviving victims will be given private, individual tours inside the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the office said. The building was the scene of the deadliest US high school shooting, in which 17 people, including 14 students, were killed and 17 others were injured on Valentine’s Day.
Gena and Tom Hoyer, the parents of slain student Luke Hoyer, plan to go, said their attorney David Brill.
“As Gena compellingly put it: ‘It’s going to be agony, but I need to go where my sweet Lukey Bear took his last breath and went to heaven. I brought him into this world and as a mom, I need to be where he left it,’” Brill said in an email to CNN.
The three-story building has been preserved pending two trials connected to the February 14, 2018, shooting, which ignited a wave of student-led protests against America’s scourge of school shootings – a scourge that continues. About 200 shootings have happened at K-12 campuses since the Parkland killings, according to a CNN tally.
Jurors in the death penalty trial of the gunman toured the building last year, followed by a group of reporters who described a scene stuck in time: Valentine’s Day gifts and cards, students’ notes and assignments were left behind, and the reporters saw bloodstains and bullet holes. Fragments of broken glass crunched beneath the reporters’ feet, they said.
The second trial concluded last week, when a jury acquitted Scot Peterson, the school resource officer who stayed outside during the attack, of felony child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. Peterson’s defense attorney wanted jurors to see the exterior of the building, while prosecutors wanted them to see both the outside and inside.
The judge decided against sending jurors.
Prosecutors, law enforcement officers and victim advocates will conduct the tours. Public access will not be allowed during the visits, which are expected to be conducted over a couple of weeks.
After the tours are completed, the building will be returned to Broward County Public Schools, which will handle the “process for all of the other staff members and former students who were present on the day of the mass shooting,” the state attorney’s office said.
Some families request shooting re-enactment
Meantime, several victims’ families who are suing Peterson are asking a Broward County civil court judge to allow their legal team to stage a simulation of the shooting for use in their lawsuit.
In a motion filed in circuit court Monday, the families asked the judge to authorize a video-recorded reenactment to recreate the shooter’s movements and gunfire. Last week, Peterson was found not guilty of seven counts of felony child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury during a rare trial of a law enforcement officer for his response to a mass shooting.
If allowed, attorneys for the plaintiffs would conduct the approximately two-hour reenactment using the same style semi-automatic rifle and caliber of ammunition as the gunman, but with blanks, the court filing said.
They also intend to “turn the fire alarm on and off at the correct times; and while borrowing a golf cart from the school grounds to simulate Peterson’s transportation to Building 12(00) during the shooting.”
The purpose of the reenactment is to “demonstrate that Peterson could hear the gunshots and derive where they were coming from,” according to the motion.
“This reenactment will be superior evidence that Peterson heard a cacophony of gunfire plainly emanating from inside Building 1200. Peterson was armed with the only other firearm on campus. And instead of doing his sworn duty to protect the lives of innocent children and teachers armed only with pencils, he cowardly allowed them to be slain, and saved his own skin,” said Brill, the attorney, who represents the families of students Hoyer, Meadow Pollack, Alaina Petty, Madeline “Maddy” Wilford and Alex Schachter, in a statement to CNN.
“We don’t want to leave anything to chance for Peterson to escape justice in our civil case,” Brill added.
Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips will consider the motion.
“Our benchmarks of professionalism include respect for our community and respect for and deference to our trial judge in such matters,” Michael Piper, an attorney representing Peterson in the civil case told CNN. “Extrajudicial comment on attorney Brill’s motion to restage Nicolas (Nikolas) Cruz’s murderous rampage compromises those benchmarks. We will respond in accordance with Judge Phillips’s direction.”
The plaintiffs are asking to conduct the reenactment at a yet to be determined date, preferably in the summer before school starts.
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