Stoneman Douglas school shooting survivors file civil rights lawsuit over Feb. 14 massacre

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018
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Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel gives a timeline of events in the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.

PARKLAND, Fla. -- More than a dozen students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that numerous officials failed to stop the Valentine's Day massacre at their school.

The lawsuit names Broward County, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, Broward County sheriff's deputy and school resource officer Scot Peterson, Capt. Jan Jordan with the Broward Couty Sheriff's Department and school security monitor Andrew Medina among the defendants. It alleges various civil rights violations under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments that caused "severe psychological injury and trauma" related to the Feb. 14 mass shooting that left 17 students and faculty members dead.

According to the suit, Runcie and Israel were "both well aware of the potential danger [suspect Nikolas Cruz] posed to the school and its students and faculty, yet they did nothing meaningful to enhance security from this known threat."

Plaintiffs claim that Peterson, Jordan and Medina's actions and inactions during the course of their response to the shooting directly led to the death, injury and traumatizing of children, and they blame the county for a lack of training and preventative policies that could have stopped the shooting.

"Numerous failures by numerous government actors, including law enforcement, strongly continued to Shooter's ability to [carry out] this horrific attack, without which this attack could not have happened," the plaintiffs allege.

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The suit also details an incident hours before the shooting in which a student, who is not identified by name because he is a minor, was allegedly detained by Peterson and subjected to an unlawful search and seizure after he was accused of selling drugs. Plaintiffs allege that Peterson's "fundamental lack of knowledge of such basic constitutional rights" that led to the alleged search was representative of "Broward County's failure to adequately train Peterson before putting him the position in which he was placed by the defendant County."

"The goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that this never happens again and that law enforcement is aware that we are expecting them to be heroes. That's their job," an attorney representing the students said at a news conference. "If they choke and they cause people to die, they will have to face the music."

All of the plaintiffs were on school property during the shooting, though they escaped physical harm. They are seeking "full and fair compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by a jury" in addition to punitive damages and attorney's fees.