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Reconstruction of Florida school shooting on Aug. 4 with live ammunition, judge said

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The reenactment of a 2018 mass shooting at a Florida high school will take place early next month as part of a civil trial and will use live ammunition with a bullet safety device, a judge was told Thursday.

Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips approved an agreement reached by the attorneys for the victims’ families and former Deputy Broward Scot Peterson to conduct the reenactment on August 4 in a three-story classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A ballistics expert for the families, former FBI agent Bruce Koenig, testified that live rounds make a different sound than blanks. A key point in the lawsuit is what Peterson was able to hear during the 2018 Valentine’s Day shooting, in which 17 people died and 17 others were injured with an AR-15 style rifle.

“You want to recreate the situation as closely as possible,” Koenig said. Blanks, he added, are “almost as hard, but there’s definitely a difference.”

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Peterson, the school’s on-campus deputy, was acquitted last month of criminal charges that charged him with inaction during the shooting, but the civil case against him that alleges similar charges is still pending.

Family attorney David Brill said the bullets would be fired in a ballistic bullet trap commonly used at shooting ranges and by law enforcement labs to safely contain the ammunition.

“In fact, it’s completely safe and controlled,” Brill said.

Peterson’s attorney, Michael Piper, said the deal will mean just one reenactment instead of two as initially proposed. An attorney for the Broward County school board also approved the plan.

“We think this is the best way to approach it,” Piper said. “We don’t want to do that to the community twice.”

The building, which has remained virtually untouched since the shooting, will be demolished once legal action is complete, school officials said. The reenactment would be based on school surveillance videos of the massacre showing second-by-second actions and locations of Peterson and gunman Nikolas Cruz during the six-minute assault in which some 140 bullets were fired.

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Victims and relatives have taken grim tours of the building since criminal trials ended, with the last visit Thursday, officials said.

Peterson, 60, insists echoes prevented him from determining where the shots came from and that he would have stormed in had he known Cruz’s location. He retired shortly after the shooting, but was then retroactively fired.

Cruz, 24 and a former student of Stoneman Douglas, was sentenced to life in prison last year after his jury failed to unanimously agree that he deserved the death penalty.

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