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Stoneman Douglas High shooting site visited one last time by Florida lawmakers, educators

17 were killed in 2018 rampage by former student; building to be demolished

By Associated Press
Published: October 15, 2023, 3:37pm

PARKLAND, Fla. — Florida lawmakers and education leaders from several states on Saturday took what is likely the final tour of a building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a former student shot 17 people to death and wounded 17 others on Valentine’s Day 2018.

The 1200 Building is scheduled to be demolished next summer, the local school district announced last month.

Authorities told WPLG-TV that Saturday was the last day for people to tour the building, which has been preserved as evidence by the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex Schachter was killed in the massacre, led Saturday’s tour.

“I wanted to have as many people, leaders of school districts around the country, to come to the building and understand the failures and lessons learned,” he said.

People from 25 states — including school board members, superintendents and national Parent Teacher Association members — went on the tour to see how they could make schools safer, WFOR-TV reported.

In July, families of the victims were allowed to go inside the locked building. Members of Congress were among those who toured it in August.

Classes have long since resumed at the Stoneman Douglas campus while the building with bullet-riddled and blood-splattered walls remained locked off. Community members have been calling for its demolition for years, but prosecutors said they needed to preserve it as evidence for the shooter’s murder trial.

On Feb. 14, 2018, former student Nikolas Cruz went with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle to the campus, where he killed 14 students and three staff members and wounded 17 other people. He pleaded guilty in 2021 and was sentenced last year to life in prison.

Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina Montalto was shot to death, has been president of Stand with Parkland, which represents most of the victims’ families. He said Saturday that the school should have had stronger doors with bullet-resistant glass.

Chris Hixon, the school’s athletic director and wrestling coach, was killed when he ran toward Cruz and tried to stop the shooting. His widow, Debbi Hixon, said safety measures could have saved lives.

“To really know the true story, to see what actually happened, and to know what the failures were is really the point of being able to go through that building,” she said Saturday.