Sheriff: School officer never went inside to confront gunman

2018-02-23 17:29
Nikolas Cruz, the accused in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing. Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Nikolas Cruz, the accused in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing. Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Fort Lauderdale - The armed officer on duty at the Florida school where a shooter killed 17 people never went inside to engage the gunman and has been placed under investigation, officials announced on Thursday.

The Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a gunman armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by US President Donald Trump and others to designate more people - including trained teachers - to carry arms on school grounds.

Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, have redoubled their push to ban assault rifles.

READ: US educators say no to 'arms race' in schools

The school resource officer at the high school took up a position viewing the western entrance of the building that was under attack for more than four minutes, but "he never went in", Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Thursday news conference. The shooting lasted about six minutes.

The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under investigation, then chose to resign, Israel said.

'Killed the killer'

When asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said the deputy should have "went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer".

A telephone message left at a listing for Peterson by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned.

An AP reporter who later went to Peterson's home in a suburb of West Palm Beach saw lights on and cars in the driveway, but no one answered the door when AP attempted to get further comment.

The sheriff said he was "devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children. .... I've been to the funerals. ... I've been to the vigils. It's just, ah, there are no words."

There was also a communication issue between the person reviewing the school's security system footage and officers who responded to the school.

Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said during a Thursday news conference that the footage being reviewed was 20 minutes old, so the responding officers were hearing that the shooter was in a certain place while officers already in that location were saying that wasn't the case.

"There was nothing wrong with their equipment. Their equipment works," Pustizzi said. "It's just that when the person was reviewing the tape from 20 minutes earlier, somehow that wasn't communicated to the officers that it was a 20-minute delay."

Pustizzi said the confusion didn't put anyone in danger.

Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder and has admitted the attack. He owned a collection of weapons. Defence attorneys, state records and people who knew him indicate that he displayed behavioural troubles for years.

Gun laws

Broward County incident reports show that unidentified callers contacted authorities with concerns about Cruz in February 2016 and November 2017.

The first caller said they had third-hand information that Cruz planned to shoot up the school.

The information was forwarded to the Stoneman Douglas resource officer. The second caller said Cruz was collecting guns and knives and believed: "He could be a school shooter in the making."

Politicians under pressure to tighten gun laws in response to the mass shooting floated various plans on Thursday, but most fell short of reforms demanded by student activists who converged Wednesday on Florida's Capitol.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said on Thursday night that his chamber is going to recommend creating a special commission to investigate the "abject breakdown at all levels" that led to the shooting deaths.

The Republican said the commission, likely be led by a parent of one of the slain children, would have subpoena power.

Corcoran also said the news about the resource officer's failure to respond did not dissuade him from moving ahead with what he was calling the "marshal" plan to let local law-enforcement officials train and deputise someone at the school who would be authorised to carry a gun.

"He's not indicative of the law enforcement community; that's not going to change our behaviour at all," Corcoran said.

State Senator Bill Galvano, who is helping craft a bill in response to the shooting deaths, insisted the idea is not the same as arming teachers.

He said the programme would be optional and the deputised person would have to be trained by local law-enforcement agencies.

US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said a visit to Stoneman Douglas prompted him to change his stance on large capacity magazines.

The Republican insisted he is willing to rethink his past opposition on gun proposals if there is information the policies would prevent mass shootings.

"If we are going to infringe on the Second Amendment, it has to be a policy that will work," Rubio said in an interview Thursday.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    us  |  us shootings

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.