Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Stoneman Douglas Survivors Announce Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Broward County

Recent MSD graduate Audrey Diaz (left) speaks with her mother, Iris Diaz (right) and Attorney Solomon Radner (center) after announcing a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by survivors of the Parkland shooting on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
Lily Oppenheimer
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and their families filed on Wednesday a federal civil rights lawsuit against Broward County, public officials and Broward County Public Schools employees.

The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, is among several that have been filed in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 people dead.

According to Attorney Solomon Radner, the lawsuit is looking for unlimited compensation for the psychological trauma suffered by survivors of the shooting,  as well as for the violation of MSD students' Fourth Amendment rights during an illegal search and seizure conducted by the school's Resource Officer Scot Peterson the day of the shooting.

It also alleges "numerous failures" by law enforcement and Broward school employees that made it easy for shooter Nikolas Cruz to enter the building and carry out the attack.

"Cops are heroes, and they're supposed to be heroes - that's what their job title is, it requires them to put their lives at risk for others," Radner said. "This lawsuit should not be misconstructed in any way as a shot at law enforcement. This is a shot at specific law enforcement officials who failed students on that particular day." 

None of the 15 plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit were shot at Stoneman Douglas, according to Radner. 

Defendants include former Broward deputy Scot Peterson, who was tasked with protecting the students at Stoneman Douglas High School. Cameras around the school and radio communication with law enforcement have shown that he never entered the building to confront gunman Nikolas Cruz as he opened-fired on campus on Feb. 14. 

The lawsuit says Cruz took his time and marched through three floors while Peterson seeked cover and claimed to be assessing the situation.

Other defendants include Jan Jordan, the Broward County Captain who refused to allow the Coral Springs Fire Department to enter the school with paramedics, and Broward school guard Andrew Medina who spotted Cruz and could have stopped him from entering the building. Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel are also included in the list.

According to the lawsuit, Medina recognized Cruz walking into Stoneman Douglas carrying a bag. Documents indicate that Medina knew that Cruz was expelled from Stoneman Douglas in 2017 and was banned from wearing a backpack on campus because he made threats against other students.

Medina did not even call a code red, which “would have put the school on lockdown and prevented most if not all of the harm.” He claimed school procedure was not to call a Code Red unless a gun was actually visible - but if this is true, the lawsuit claims Broward County school policy and training is to blame.

Court documents also detail how superintendent Robert Runcie and Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, were both aware of the danger Cruz posed to the school and students ahead of time. The survivors also allege that Runcie “had been warned by multiple credentialed and experienced individuals that the school grounds were not up to par regarding safety, particularly concerning school shooting scenarios.”

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Under a Missouri School of Journalism fellowship, I spent my last college semester in New York City editing and producing videos for Mic, an innovative news startup in One World Trade Center. After late nights of deadlines, finessing video pieces, bonding with coworkers and experimenting with editing techniques, I produced and filmed my own mini-documentary focusing on evolving Mic video strategies.