FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Jurors in the trial of former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson on Friday heard from one of the students who was wounded on the third floor of the 1200 Building during the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Testimony of former MSD student Marian Kabachenko
Marian Kabachenko climbed a fence after being shot in the leg.
“Because of my English level, I wasn’t understanding what was going on,” he said.
From Crimea, Kabachenko says he was a student at MSD for only about two weeks when the school shooting happened on Feb. 14, 2018.
“I never heard real gunshots before in my life, so that is why it was very shocking,” he said in Russian. “I wasn’t sure if there were terrorists, or one person, one terrorist.”
The Parkland shooting survivor told the court he would prefer to testify in his native language of Russian, so he used an interpreter during his testimony.
“When I was running, something hit my leg,” he said.
As Kabachenko was leaving the building, he walked past the lifeless body of Coach Aaron Feis.
“Did any police officers run to you as you were running out of the building?” Assistant State Attorney Kristen Gomes asked.
“No,” the now 19-year-old responded.
The defense on cross-examination attempted to seize the moment the witness said that after being a good distance from the building is when he heard another round of gunfire.
“We were thinking that we were the target of the shooting again and started running again,” Kabachenko said.
“From the sounds you were hearing, you believe the shooter was firing at you from the outside, correct?” Peteron’s defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh asked.
“No, the sound was shooting in the building but subconsciously I had this idea that I am in danger,” he responded.
The state re-oriented the jury to their view during their re-direct.
“Because nobody was preventing the shooter, he may have walked around and finished us off,” Kabachenko said.
“Did you see the man on your left at all that day?” Gomes asked, referring to Peterson.
“No,” Kabachenko responded.
Kabachenko was in geography class taught by Scott Beigel, who was killed in the massacre, prior to the shooting.
He said he credits teacher Ernie Rospierski with saving his life.
Rospierski forgot his keys when they left the classroom after hearing the alarm go off, believing it was a fire drill.
Surveillance video shows Rospierski leveraging the brief window of time the shooter was reloading to move his students toward the stairwell to escape.
In the back of the kids running toward the stairwell was Jaime Guttenberg, who was shot in the spine. She collapsed and died on the third-floor stairwell landing.
Eiglarsh asked Kabachenko if he thinks he would have had shelter from the gunshots had Rospierski been able to get his classroom door open.
“I was very new at the school, so was not trusting the rooms,” he said, adding that there was a lot of glass. “If he would have opened, I probably would have entered, but not sure I would have been very safe.”
Some of the students who were murdered or wounded on the first floor were in their classrooms at the time of the shooting as the gunman shot through the door windows.
“I thought if it wasn’t for Mr. Rospierski, I would not have had the courage to leave the building,” Kabachenko said.
Eiglarsh also highlighted for the jury that his client was on the other side of the building from where this survivor exited.
Testimony of Coral Springs Police Officer Richard Best
Richard Best was one of the Coral Springs police officers who raced to the Parkland shooting scene.
“It is understood that the longer you wait, the more damage is being done,” he said. “Every time you heard a gunshot, somebody might be dead.”
He added that putting your life on the line to stop the threat and render aid is part of the job.
“After Columbine, (there was) a huge push to adapt this response -- it is not that as one police officer, I want to go inside by myself, but that is our training -- to go inside.”
Best said he spotted Peterson as he approached the 1200 Building.
“I said, ‘Hey brother, what do we get?’ He said, ‘Gunshots second or third floor,’” Best told the jury.
Best said he decided to enter the building, but Peterson did not.
“When you enter and left, he was still there?” Gomes asked.
“Yes,” Best responded.
Testimony of former MSD student Arman Borghei
Former student Arman Borghei said he looked out of a third-floor window and spotted the ex-deputy with his gun drawn, looking at the 1200 Building.
“(I was) really scared, wondering when help would arrive,” he said.
“At any time did you see Peterson take the firearm in his hand and move towards the building?” Assistant State Attorney and lead prosecutor Christopher Killoran asked.
“Move toward the building? No,” Borghei said.
Prosecutors allege Peterson was negligent in failing to confront the shooter. The charges against him stem from the 10 staff members and students who were wounded and killed on the third floor.
The defense argues he did the best he could with the information he had at the time.
“Your thought process could be more than one shooter because of the sounds, correct?” Eiglarsh asked Borghei.
“Correct,” Borghei responded.
Testimony of teacher Melody Herzfeld
Melody Herzfeld said she met Peterson while working as a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“He was a nice man,” Herzfeld said in court adding that she remembered him as “responsible” and “dependable.”
Herzfeld, who was a witness for the defense, said that when she heard the gunshots from a distance she thought the shooting was in the football field.