FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Florida judge has ruled that a local school district had no responsibility to warn students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of the danger posed by a former student who would later be accused of a mass shooting that killed 17 people.
Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning said Monday that the Broward County school district cannot be held liable for failing to predict actions that were beyond its control, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.
Nikolas Cruz awaits trial on multiple murder charges and faces the death penalty if convicted. He's also accused of wounding 17 people with an AR-15 assault-style rifle in the attack at the Parkland school on Feb. 14, 2018.
Families of the victims have sued Cruz, who was 19 at the time, as well as the school district, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and on-duty deputies who failed to stop the massacre.
“The District had no control over Cruz,” the judge ruled. “They did not have custody over him. He was not a student in the system and had not been for over a year. In fact, he was refused access to the campus once he left school. Nor did the district have pre-knowledge of a definitive threat by Cruz.”
It is another loss for the families trying to hold officials accountable for failing to prevent the mass shooting.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in September that for insurance purposes, the district can treat the shooting as a single incident, capping liability at a total of $300,000 to be split among all the victims who have filed suit.
And in October, Englander Henning ruled that the victims of the shooting and their families will have to turn over some records of their mental health treatment since the tragedy.
The judge also said the plaintiffs are relying on too many “what if” questions to build a solid legal claim for damages.
“There is no foundation for the argument that if Cruz had been sent to a different program, and if he had been treated as a higher threat years before the incident, and if he had been criminally charged years earlier so he’d have been convicted and could not buy or own a gun, and if he had never been permitted to attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas, then he would not have been on this campus and would never have committed the crime,” the ruling said.
Among the plaintiffs is Anthony Borges, who was shot during the rampage.
“How is a kid supposed to feel safe attending a public school under those conditions?” asked attorney Alex Arreaza, who represents Borges. “That ruling puts every child in danger. To think that the school board has no obligation to warn us of anyone else like Nikolas Cruz in the system should give all parents a deep concern.”
Attorney Eugene Pettis, representing the Broward School Board, declined to comment about the details Monday afternoon but told the newspaper that he believes the ruling speaks for itself.