Police sergeant: 'You have to assume somebody is dying'

June 9, 2023
Coral Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich told jurors in the trial of former SRO Scot Peterson that law enforcement officers are trained to head toward gunfire to neutralize the threat posed by a gunman.

Students took cover by parked cars just north of the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a gunman made his way through the hallways on Feb. 14, 2018.

Campus monitor Brian Staubly said he shooed them away, telling them to get farther away from the 1200 building. That, he said, is where the gunfire originated.

Staubly took the stand Thursday in the trial of former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, who is accused of child neglect and culpable negligence for failing to run into the 1200 building to confront gunman Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 students and staff and injured 17 more in the mass shooting.

Thursday’s testimony also was marked by the testimony of Kyle Laman, who was wounded on the third floor during the shooting. Prosecutors say Laman is one of the underage students who could have been spared injury if Peterson had tried to find and confront Cruz.

Watching a recording of the series of shootings on the third floor, Laman grimaced in the memory of his pain, gasping, punching his left fist into his right hand in a vain effort to stop the tears that inevitably began to fall.

Jurors were shown the same video, which was withheld from the general public.

Staubly’s certainty about the source of the gunfire stood in contrast to the defense’s contention that Peterson and other law enforcement officers at the scene were uncertain about the source of the gunfire.

Earlier on Thursday, Coral Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich told jurors that law enforcement officers are trained to head toward gunfire to neutralize the threat posed by a gunman. “When the gunshots are going off, you have to assume somebody is dying,” he said.

What Peterson heard, and how he interpreted it, has emerged as a central question in the case. Peterson maintains that from his vantage point, just south of the 1200 building, outside the 700 building, he could not tell with any certainty that the shots he heard were coming from inside the 1200 building.

All shots fired at the school that afternoon were from the AR-15-style rifle carried by Cruz, and all were inside the 1200 building.

But at the time, not everyone knew it. And not everyone knew there was just one shooter.


“It reverberates out,” Heinrich said about the sound of gunfire. “I felt at the time that they were coming from the area of the 12 to 1300 building… I couldn’t tell you whether they were inside, outside, up on the roof, third floor, second floor. … All I could go off of is what I was hearing.”

He heard another officer say, “They’re shooting at us,” indicating uncertainty about the number of shooters and whether shots were coming from the building.

Heinrich and other officers took cover, just as Peterson did. Heinrich found out with certainty the shots were coming from inside the building when he encountered a wounded student outside the west side of the building.

It was Laman.

Under cross examination by defense lawyer Mark Eiglarsh, Laman said he did not hear the gunfire on the first floor.

The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday afternoon.


©2023 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Visit at sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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