Off-duty officer testifies in trial of deputy accused in Parkland shooting

An off-duty officer, Jeffrey Heinrich, who was present during the 2018 Parkland high school massacre in Florida, has given his testimony in the trial of the deputy accused of failing to stop the shooter. Heinrich described how he initially mistook the gunshots for fireworks before realising the situation and approaching unarmed. The trial focuses on what former Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, 60 years old, heard and saw during the shooting, as he is charged with not confronting the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, before he reached the third floor of the building, where six victims died.

Heinrich testified that he was watering the baseball field about 200m away from the building when the shooting began. He only began to suspect gunshots when he saw panicked students running from the building. Despite being unarmed and dressed in casual clothes, Heinrich ran towards the sound of gunshots, stating, “My training is that you run toward the sound of gunshots,” and “It was just instinct.”

Heinrich encountered a wounded student, Kyle Laman, whose lower right leg was severely injured. After stemming the bleeding until paramedics arrived, Heinrich learned from Laman that he had been shot on the third floor of the building. Heinrich then joined other officers in searching the building.

Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, highlighted during cross-examination that Heinrich also couldn’t initially tell where the shots were coming from. However, Heinrich stated that if he had been armed, he would have gone towards the source of the shots until he found the shooter. Laman, now 20 years old, also testified on Thursday, showing jurors his scarred leg and describing the severe pain he experiences at times.

The most serious charges against Peterson are seven counts of felony child neglect for four students killed and three wounded on the third floor. For Peterson to be convicted of child neglect, prosecutors must first show he was legally a caregiver to the juvenile students. If jurors find Peterson was a caregiver, they must determine whether he made a “reasonable effort” to protect the children or failed to provide necessary care.

Peterson is the first US law enforcement officer ever charged for an alleged failure to act during a school shooting. The Parkland school shooting shocked the country and renewed calls for gun reforms, but more than five years later, the US continues to suffer from regular mass shootings and rampant gun violence. The trial began on Wednesday and is expected to last up to two months. Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty and last year received a life sentence.

World News

Jenn

With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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