(CN) – The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is wrongly refusing to release surveillance video from the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, three media companies claim in court.
In a petition filed Monday, but not made available until Wednesday by the Broward County Circuit Court, the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and CNN claim the sheriff’s office has rebuffed their request to see footage recorded by surveillance cameras on the grounds at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the mass shooting that killed 17.
“Specifically, the response of law enforcement officers during the shooting and immediately thereafter is of extreme public interest,” the complaint says. “The public, therefore, should be given the first-hand opportunity to review and evaluate the video and the actions of its government officials.”
In addition to the sheriff’s office and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the complaint also names the Broward County School Board and schools superintendent Robert Runcie, who relinquished the video to the sheriff’s office after the shooting.
The media companies are represented by Dana McElroy and James McGuire of Thomas & LoCicero. In 2016, the Ft. Lauderdale-based firm sued the city of Orlando for access to 911 calls from the Pulse nightclub shooting. A judge later ordered the release of the calls with the exception of those involving death of the patrons.
The allegedly wanting response to the shooting from the school’s resource officer and arriving sheriff’s deputies has provoked outrage nationwide. Israel criticized the armed school resource officer, Scot Peterson, in a Feb. 22 press conference for staying outside during the shooting and not confronting the killer. Peterson resigned and later released a statement through his attorney explaining that he thought the shooter was outside and he was trying to establish a perimeter around the scene.
News outlets have also reported that deputies arriving at the scene did not enter the building during the shooting.
But after media companies requested outside surveillance video, the sheriff’s office declined to release the footage, citing public records exemptions for revealing security systems and evidence in an active investigation. Israel told reporters last week, the office “may never disclose the video.”
The lawsuit argues Israel already detailed the school deputy’s actions during a press conference and conceded the public needed to know how law enforcement responded to the shooting. In addition, the complaint says, the building where the shooting occurred will be demolished – eliminating the need to keep its security system private.
The media companies are not seeking surveillance video from inside the school.
“Disclosing this video footage from exterior cameras (not the interior where the shooting occurred), lies at the core of understanding exactly how events unfolded and will provide critical insight into the propriety of the government’s response,” the complaint states. “The purpose of this action, therefore, is to obtain access to these important public records for evaluation of government behavior. Specifically, disclosure of the video will assist the public in, among other things, considering whether a different course of action may have lessened or averted the tragic outcome.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called for an investigation into the sheriff office’s response to the shooting.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman with the Broward County School District also did not respond