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Video from outside Stoneman Douglas high school must be released, judge orders

Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The media should be allowed to obtain the security video from outside last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward County Circuit Judge Jeffrey R. Levenson ruled Monday.

He signed an order Monday afternoon authorizing the video's release, but immediately placed a stay on the order until Thursday to give the Broward Sheriff's Office and the School Board a chance to appeal.

A host of media organizations, including the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald and CNN, sued the Sheriff's Office last month for access to the video, which reportedly does not show accused shooter Nikolas Cruz or any of the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 and injured another 17.

Cruz, 19, has been indicted on charges of murder and attempted murder. He is being held without bond at the Broward County main jail and is due in court Wednesday for a formal arraignment.

His attorneys have said he is not denying guilt but is holding off on a guilty plea in the hopes that prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

School district officials, including an assistant principal from Stoneman Douglas, argued in court last week that releasing the video would expose the limits of the cameras mounted at various positions on campus, creating a security risk.

The Broward Sheriff's Office indicated that Sheriff Scott Israel was in favor of releasing the video to the public but did not feel he had the authority because it is part of an active criminal investigation and an internal affairs investigation into Deputy Scot Peterson, who stayed outside the school as the shooting was going on.

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Peterson, a school resource officer, resigned in the wake of the shooting.

Dana McElroy, attorney for the media organizations who want access to the video, argued that its release is crucial for a thorough and transparent analysis of the law enforcement response to the shooting. Israel has denied allegations that other deputies refused to go into the school to confront the shooter.

Neither the Broward Sheriff's Office nor the School Board of Broward County has indicated an intention to appeal Levenson's order releasing the video.

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