An off-duty police officer who was at Florida’s Parkland high school throughout a 2018 bloodbath has testified on the trial of the deputy accused of not stopping the shooter liable for one of many worst faculty shootings in United States historical past.
Jeffrey Heinrich, testifying for a second day for the prosecution on Thursday, described how he mistook gunshots for fireworks earlier than realising what was occurring and approached unarmed.
Heinrich mentioned he initially thought the pictures have been coming from in or close to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty classroom constructing the place the 17 murders occurred. But it surely wasn’t till he spoke to a wounded pupil a number of minutes after the capturing began that he knew for sure.
He conceded that he by no means received inside 182m of the place former Broward Deputy Scot Peterson had taken cowl on the other facet of the constructing and by no means noticed the deputy.
What Peterson, 60, heard and noticed on February 14, 2018, is the important thing subject in the trial. He’s charged with failing to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz earlier than the gunman reached the 1200 constructing’s third ground, the place six of the victims died.
Peterson just isn’t charged in reference to the 11 deaths on the primary ground, earlier than he reached the constructing. He by no means entered the constructing, taking cowl close by. He insists he didn’t know the place the pictures have been coming from.
If convicted, Peterson might be sentenced to just about a century in jail.
Heinrich testified he was watering the baseball subject about 200m away from the 1200 constructing when the capturing started. His son performed for the varsity staff and Heinrich was a volunteer groundskeeper on the faculty, the place his spouse teaches bodily schooling.
He mentioned he heard loud bangs, however having labored as a faculty police officer, he simply thought a pupil had set off firecrackers.
And although he then heard the hearth alarm go off, he solely started to suspect gunshots when he noticed panicked college students working from the constructing. He dropped the hose and ran towards the buildings, although he was unarmed and wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
“My coaching is that you just run towards the sound of gunshots,” he mentioned. “It was simply intuition.” He mentioned officers are advised to get to the shooter as a result of each gunshot is probably one other demise.
He mentioned he ran previous an unarmed safety guard who advised him that there was an lively shooter and that an assistant soccer coach had been shot. However he mentioned he couldn’t inform if the pictures have been coming from contained in the 1200 constructing, a neighbouring constructing, or their rooftops.
He then went right into a car parking zone, discovering pupil Kyle Laman with a part of his decrease proper leg blown off and fearing he may bleed to demise. He heard a voice he believed was a police officer yelling, “They’re capturing at us” and telling them to get down.
Heinrich mentioned he rushed Laman to a baseball locker room the place he stemmed the bleeding till paramedics arrived. It was then that Laman advised him he had been shot on the 1200 constructing’s third ground. He referred to as his dispatchers.
Heinrich went again outdoors and noticed certainly one of his Coral Springs colleagues, who had an additional bullet-resistant vest and handgun. He donned the vest, grabbed the gun and so they returned to the constructing, which was now being searched by different officers who had since arrived. They stayed outdoors so that they wouldn’t draw pleasant fireplace.
Peterson’s lawyer, Mark Eiglarsh, on cross-examination, emphasised that Heinrich additionally couldn’t inform the place the pictures have been coming from. Heinrich mentioned that was true, however that if he had been armed he would have gone in the direction of the place he thought they have been till he discovered the shooter.
Laman, now 20, additionally took the stand on Thursday, exhibiting jurors his scarred, broken leg. He broke down when prosecutors performed safety video of him and the others being shot on the third ground, including his ache is so extreme at instances it makes him unable to stroll.
Underneath cross-examination by Eiglarsh, Laman mentioned he didn’t hear the pictures Cruz fired on the primary and second flooring due to the hearth alarm, however knew precisely what was occurring when he noticed Cruz firing on the third ground.
Probably the most critical prices in opposition to Peterson are seven counts of felony youngster neglect for 4 college students killed and three wounded on the third ground.
For Peterson to be convicted of kid neglect, prosecutors should first present he was legally a caregiver to the juvenile college students – outlined by Florida legislation as “a guardian, grownup family member or different individual accountable for a kid’s welfare”.
If jurors discover Peterson was a caregiver, they have to decide whether or not he made a “affordable effort” to guard the kids or failed to supply obligatory care.
Peterson is the primary US legislation enforcement officer ever charged for an alleged failure to behave throughout a faculty capturing. Equally, Texas authorities are investigating officers within the town of Uvalde who didn’t confront the shooter who killed 19 elementary college students and two academics final 12 months. None have been charged, nevertheless.
The Parkland school shooting shocked the nation and renewed requires gun reforms, however greater than 5 years later, the US continues to endure from common mass shootings and rampant gun violence.
The trial started on Wednesday and is anticipated to last as long as two months. Cruz, 24, pleaded responsible and final 12 months acquired a life sentence.