Stoneman Douglas Commission Concludes Shooting Investigation, Causing a Shakeup at Broward Sheriff's Office

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Posted: Nov 21, 2018 11:30 PM
Stoneman Douglas Commission Concludes Shooting Investigation, Causing a Shakeup at Broward Sheriff's Office

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission examined the February 14th shooting in great detail last week. They examined the school's blueprints and the Broward County Sheriff's Office response to the situation, WLRN reported.

Detective Walter Bonasaro of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office gave a powerpoint presentation to the commission. One of the issues was the unlocked, unattended front gate. The other big concern was having doors with glass slits in the window where a potential shooter can look into a classroom. 

Stoneman Douglas teacher Ivy Schamis said she feared Nikolas Cruz would bust through the window and unlock the door.

“I was cowering in the corner waiting for a hand to come right through and all you had to do was reach your hand into that - into that window and open the door," Schamis told the commission members.

According to Sergeant John Suess, Cruz had a frightening internet search history on his cell phone.

"Specifically: 'how long does it take for a cop to show up at a school shooting?' He identified a school shooting in Finland. And then searched the phrase 'I want to die.'"

When the Commission talked about the law enforcement response, everyone in the room seemed to be in agreement: the BSO did not respond adequately. 

From WLRN:

The second half of the day was given over to the play-by-play of law enforcement's response. The commission watched a bird's-eye animation of the crucial minutes before and after the massacre on campus. They watched the movement of dots through a map of the school—dots representing the shooter, first responders and some of the children who were harmed. The animation was reinforced with security footage and emergency calls.

The audience in the public seating area held their hands over their faces, chewed their nails, fidgeted in their seats. Some sat perfectly still. In the moments between recordings of 911 calls, as the dots silently floated through the map on screen, the whole room felt as if it were holding its breath.

Special attention was paid to the dot representing the school resource officer, Scot Peterson, which approached building 12 and retreated to a space between buildings 7 and 8. The commissioners chewed over his choices. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Peterson was a cop in name only.

"If you were a real human being, you would have gone in," said commissioner Lauren Book. There were nods in agreement.

Suess raised another big concern later in the afternoon: school staff training, or the lack of it, for active shooter situations. He presented videos and photos that suggested many staff had inexplicably directed students back toward the school campus, even when a code red had been announced over the school’s PA and radio security systems.

“It’s a lack of training,” Suess told the commission. “They weren’t drilled enough...They were not well trained on what to do.”

Suess also pointed out that Peterson and other veteran BSO officers at the scene had not had active shooter training in the past year before the Parkland shooting. (Peterson’s last training had been almost two years prior.) Commission members pointed out that many of the officers seemed to be directing traffic near the school instead of moving toward the school and the shooting.

Suess’s report prompted bitter public comment afterward. Among those who addressed the commission was Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was killed in the shooting.

“Here’s my concern,” said Guttenberg. “I’ve lost my belief in heroes. Because they didn’t show up on the day I needed them most.”

As a result of the Commission's findings, Captain Jan Jordan submitted her resignation to Sheriff Scott Israel on Tuesday, WFOR-TV reported. Jordan was the captain in command the day of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

“In light of the evidence that was presented to the commission last week about her action, or inaction, I think she did the honorable thing,” said Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed during the shooting.

Jordan blamed her lack of response on radio and technology communication problems. After the shooting, she was reassigned by the BSO.

Her resignation became effective November 20th.

Parkland District Sgt. Brian Miller has been placed on restrictive administrative duty as of last Tuesday. Commission Chairman Piniellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Miller waited minutes, away from the school, before acting or getting on his radio.

“He sat up on Holmberg Road for over 10 minutes,” Gualtieri said last week, as Broward Sheriff Scott Israel testified before the Commission. “He heard gunshots and he didn’t move. He never got on the radio. He was the first supervisor on the scene. He never moved even when officers and deputies were going into the building. That man never moved.”

There are also body camera footage from other officers that show Miller never moved positions.

Sheriff Scott Israel placed Miller on administrative leave.

“The MSD Public Safety Commission hearings last week gave BSO and the public a first look at some of the results of their nine-month investigation," Israel said in a statement. "Upon learning about those preliminary findings, I felt it was prudent to place Sgt. Brian Miller on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal review of his actions.”

Survivors and their families sounded off on the news. There seemed to be a general consensus: the Broward County Sheriff's Department failed to appropriately respond to the situation. And most of them agreed that Sheriff Scott Israel should resign as well.

Of course, Israel refused to resign. 

“I have done nothing that would warrant my resignation and have absolutely no intentions of resigning. I am committed to BSO and the safety of Broward County. I will remain Sheriff for so long as the voters of Broward County want to have me," Israel said in a statement obtained by WFOR.