West Palm Beach, FL – In a win for state and national media organizations, an appeals court Wednesday ordered the release of more surveillance-camera footage from the afternoon when a gunman killed 17 people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that the school camera footage should be made available.
Some footage was released in March, but media organizations expanded the request as they sought additional information about the response of law-enforcement officers to the Feb. 14 mass shooting.
The Broward County School Board objected to the additional request, pointing to concerns that the video could divulge security vulnerabilities on the school’s campus. Also, the Broward County State Attorney’s Office objected to releasing the additional footage, saying it was part of an active criminal investigation.
But a majority of the appeals court rejected both arguments Wednesday and said the Broward Sheriff’s Office must release the footage within 48 hours.
“Here, the media showed that the footage would reveal the response of law enforcement personnel and other first responders during and immediately after an active shooting at Douglas during school hours,” said the majority opinion, written by Judge Robert Gross and joined by Judge Mark Klingensmith. “The media showed the need for the public to actually witness the events as they unfolded because the narrative provided by ‘the authorities’ is confusing and has shifted and changed over time. … The evidence presented by the media establishes that different sources tell different stories about the first responders’ conduct. The footage itself would reveal if the first responders rushed into Building 12 (where the shooting occurred) to confront the active shooter, formed a perimeter, or hid in stairwells and behind their vehicles for an unreasonable length of time.”
The majority pointed to what is known as a “good cause” exception to a law that typically shields the release of information about security systems. But in a dissent, Judge Burton Conner agreed with the School Board’s concerns that releasing the footage could reveal information about the school’s security system.
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz was charged in the murders, one of the worst school shootings in United States history.