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Judge: Parkland video should be seen by the public

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USA Today

A Florida judge paved the way Monday for surveillance video from the Parkland, Fla. mass shooting to be released to the public, possibly as early as Thursday.

The USA TODAY Network and several other media organizations had petitioned for the release of the video, which shows the minutes during and after the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people during the massacre at the school, where more than 70 surveillance cameras are installed.

Prosecutors had previously asked Broward County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey R. Levenson to deny the petition by media organizations, but USA TODAY Network, the Miami Herald, CNN and others argued that the footage should be released due to overwhelming public interest.

The judge Monday agreed with news outlets that the video should be released. The judge stayed his order until noon Thursday to allow for a possible appeal.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office and School Board had resisted the video release, saying it was exempt from disclosure in part because it was evidence in an active investigation.

Authorities say it depicts actions during the shooting by former deputy Scot Peterson, who was armed and assigned to the school but never went inside.

The video will allow people to consider “whether a different course of action may have lessened or averted the tragic outcome,” the news organizations argued in a petition filed by lawyer Dana J. McElroy, of Thomas & LoCicero in Tampa.

The Sheriff’s Office argued the videos may reveal safety information in the school district’s security system.

That position was underscored last week by State Attorney Michael J. Satz, the Broward County prosecutor whose office is overseeing the criminal case against Cruz, the 19-year-old former student charged in the case. 

“The release of such information would be detrimental to the fair presentation of evidence to the grand jury, and jury hearing this matter at trial, and potentially the due process rights of Nikolas Cruz,” Assistant State Attorney Joel Silvershein said in a court filing for Satz’s office.

Media outlets have relied mostly on leaked records and sporadic releases of other public records to piece together a timeline of events leading up to the shooting.

“Disclosing this video footage from exterior cameras (not the interior where the shooting occurred) lies at the core of understanding exactly how events unfolded and will provide critical insight into the propriety of the government’s response,” McElroy wrote in the petition.

The school district has declined to release almost all school records, including incident reports and disciplinary files, citing student privacy exemptions. School officials said they handed over the surveillance video and server to police, which the media outlets argued violates public records laws.

CONTRIBUTING: Brett Murphy, Naples Daily News

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