News & Politics

Report: Broward County Officers Ordered to 'Stage' Not Rush into High School Shooting Scene

Report: Broward County Officers Ordered to 'Stage' Not Rush into High School Shooting Scene
(AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

A bad command by a commanding officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14 may have cost lives, Fox News has learned.  Multiple sources say that in the first critical moments of the shooting, the Broward County officer in charge ordered first responders to “stage” and set up a “perimeter” outside the building — rather than ordering or allowing officers to rush into the school and “neutralize the shooter,” as they’re trained to do.


This went against Broward policy and reportedly caused some responding officers on scene to become very frustrated — one to the point of tears.

A law enforcement source who was on the scene after the shooting told Fox News: “It’s atrocious. If deputies were staging, it could have cost lives.”

The source said that “responding deputies and officers were called to an active shooter scene in which they are trained to immediately ‘go, go, go’ toward the direction of the shooter. … Every second is another life.”

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office policy on active shooters indicates responding deputies may enter the building to preserve life without permission. That remains the priority until various objectives are met such as the shooter being detained. The policy does not appear to list staging — setting up an area to keep first responders safe — or a perimeter as an immediate priority before police secure a violent scene.

However, two law enforcement officials said the call for staging or a perimeter might not have been a bad call because staging and a perimeter eventually has to happen during most emergency situations and the commanding officer might have had information the rest of the crews did not.


Carla Kmiotek, a sergeant for the Coral Springs Fire Department, told Fox News that an active shooter call is “multifaceted when discussing tactics and scene command. Our officers are trained to respond and immediately press to the threat.”

But Kmiotek added, “Setting up a perimeter and incident command is a necessary element of the response… determined from the intelligence known as the event is unfolding.”

An official close to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation into the responding agencies told Fox News that “he and some of his colleagues have heard claims that some of the first responders at Stoneman Douglas were stalled getting inside because of bad commands.”

Another source — a city official with close ties to a county — told Fox News that “a few of the responding officers on scene were very frustrated and one was brought to tears over the law enforcement response.”

What appears to corroborate all of the sources’ allegations of bad commands is a portion of the February 14 dispatch log obtained by Fox News that appears to indicate there were several orders for crews to stage and form a perimeter. The logs appeared to indicate that at the same time these commands were given, law enforcement still had not located the active shooter and even a responding air crew refused to take off — apparently in fear of being shot down — because it was not established the shooter was in custody.

One law enforcement source said it still was an “extremely” active shooter situation since authorities had not located the shooter and critical emergency aircrews were not taking off. The source said deputies and police should be have been rushing in to neutralize the threat versus staging or setting up a perimeter.


Jeff Bell, the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, told Fox News that it was a bad command to order staging unless there were a lot of officers inside the school. “If that is the correct log at ten minutes, that we were more concerned with the perimeter than finding the shooter, it was a bad command,” Bell said. “It could have stalled our officers or cost lives.”

According to the dispatch log obtained by Fox News, “Nikolas Cruz entered Building 12 on the campus of Marjory Stoneman around 2:21 p.m. and began firing.” The shooting reportedly lasted about seven and a half minutes.

According to a portion of the dispatch log, there was a call that came in at 2:23 p.m. from a female student about shots fired.

At 2:25 p.m., more “SHOTS FIRED” were recorded by responding officers or witnesses.

At 2:26 p.m., the log indicated another call came in advising the shooting was coming from “THE 1200 BLDG.”
At 2:26:56 p.m., Cruz was still firing, according to units on scene. “UNITS ADV SHOTS FIRED” the log read.

As the law enforcement source said, the alleged bad commands could have cost lives. “Every second is another life.”

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