Several local sheriff’s deputies waited outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoolwhile a shooter gunned down multiple people, killing 17, according to new reports. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has said it is investigating the allegations, with Sheriff Scott Israel promising to “take care of business” if he finds wrongdoing, even as pressure mounts from some corners for him to resign.
Coral Springs police officers say that not one but several Broward County sheriff’s deputies waited outside the school building in Parkland, Florida, while the February 14 shooting was underway, according to reports from the Florida Sun Sentinel and CNN. At least three deputies held back from entering, police sources told the Sun Sentinel.
It has previously been reported that Scot Peterson, the deputy assigned to protect the school, waited outside the building instead of going in; Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said this week Peterson waited for four to six minutes even though he could “clearly” hear gunfire. Peterson resigned and subsequently retired after being suspended without pay.
According to CNN, Coral Springs police officers say they found Peterson and three other deputies outside the school with their pistols drawn and behind their vehicles. With direction from the Broward deputies, Coral Springs police entered the building where the shooter, later identified as Nikolas Cruz, was. Two deputies who arrived later and an officer from Sunrise, Florida, joined Coral Springs police as they went into the building. Per CNN, a report on what happened will likely be released next week.
The handling of the Parkland shooting — before, during, and after it took place — have become an increasingly important focus in its aftermath. Law enforcement failed to act at several points in time before the shooting: the FBI didn’t act on a January tip about the danger posed by Cruz, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office failed to write up a November warning about him.
Sheriff Israel appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday to discuss the allegations about the deputies, as well as respond to questions about his department’s response to previous tips about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz. The sheriff’s office received more than a dozen calls about Cruz before the shooting. “We will investigate every action of our deputies, of their supervisors, and if they did things right, we’ll move forward, and if they did things wrong, I will take care of business,” he said. Israel said that “of course” he wouldn’t resign, despite a call from Florida Representative Bill Hager for him to step down over the incident.
When asked by Tapper whether he believes his office might have been able to prevent the shooting had they acted differently, the sheriff gave a puzzling response: “If its and buts were candy and nuts, OJ Simpson would still be in the record books.” He later added, “We understand everything wasn’t done perfectly,” and in the office’s investigation wants to “get it right.”
President Donald Trump speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday took aim at Peterson, the officer who resigned, over his inaction during the shooting. “Look, you had one guard. He didn’t turn out to be so good, I will tell you that,” he said. “He turned out to be not good. He was not a credit to law enforcement. That I can tell you.” Israel, the sheriff, said this week that Peterson’s inaction made him “devastated” and “sick to my stomach.” Asked what the officer should have done, he said, “Went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” It now looks as though he may have the inaction of more than one deputy to contend with.
There is also another layer to questions about what deputies could — and could not — have done during the Florida shooting: What it might say about the hero with a gun idea, that a good guy with a gun is what you need to stop a bad guy. Trained officers failed to stop Cruz before he killed 17 people and injured more. Now President Trump and others are advocating for arming teachers — Trump fired off a tweet suggesting it on Saturday.