Six members of congress, including two from South Florida, are scheduled Monday to take a final tour of the building where a gunman murdered 17 people and wounded 17 more in the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a building that is scheduled to be torn down next year.
U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz arranged the tour with five fellow members of Congress: Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), Brian Fitzpatrick (D-Pennsylvania), Daniel Goldman (D-New York), Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), and Wiley Nickel (D-North Carolina). In previous visits, the members of congress and other public officials who have toured the site have been from both major political parties.
Family members of the victims have said they want government officials to see the site for themselves so they could consider it while making public policy decisions.
The crime scene has remained largely untouched since Feb. 14, 2018, when gunman Nikolas Cruz walked into the building, assembled an AR-15-style rifle at the bottom of a first floor stairwell, and opened fire on the unsuspecting students who, until that moment, were enjoying the final hour of a sunny Valentine’s Day afternoon.
Most of what was left behind remains at the scene, including open computers and notebooks, unfinished assignments on dry erase boards and laptops, unopened boxes of candies and abandoned teddy bears, and shards of glass from the windows the gunman destroyed as he fired into classrooms at terrified students who had no idea why anyone would want them dead.
And bullet holes and bloodstains in the classrooms, on the hallway floors and walls, and in the stairwells where some students tried and failed to escape.
Cruz eventually pleaded guilty to the 17 murders and 17 attempted murders. He was sentenced to life in prison after a Broward jury last year failed to reach unanimous agreement that he deserved to be executed for the crime.
The crime scene was originally preserved so jurors could assess it for themselves. The building remained untouched in case it could be used for the criminal trial of former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, who was accused of taking cover instead of taking action to stop the shooter. A jury found Peterson not guilty of child neglect.
Earlier this year, the lawyers suing Peterson and the Broward Sheriff’s Office conducted a re-enactment of the shooting to determine whether someone standing outside the building could or should have known the source of the gunfire as the mass shooting was taking place.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4457.