While students were being hunted down by an armed madman in what was to become the worst school shooting in Florida history, Broward County deputies were “cowering behind their cars and a nearby tree,” according to damning new officer reports released by the Coral Springs Police Department Tuesday.
Worse yet, the deputies made no attempt to go inside during those critical first moments even though the deputy behind the tree said he knew where the shooter was, the Miami Herald reported. None of the deputies attempted to track down shooter Nikolas Cruz or aid the wounded. Instead, they set up a perimeter outside the building and waited for a SWAT team to arrive.
In his report, Officer Bryan Wilkins wrote that he arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School within minutes of the active shooter alert — only to find Broward County Sheriff’s officers taking cover behind their vehicles.
“I saw approximately four Broward County Sheriff’s Office vehicles parked in the west bound lane with their personnel taking up exterior positions behind their vehicles,” Wilkins wrote. “I drove up just west of the campus building 1200, exited my vehicle, grabbed my AR-15 rifle and donned on my tactical/medical gear. As I was advancing on foot through the chain-link fence, I was advised by an unknown BSO Deputy taking cover behind a tree, ‘he is on the third floor.'”
Sgt. Nick Mazzei, another Coral Springs officer who arrived at the scene within minutes of the shooting, “confirmed that he saw BSO deputies ‘taking positions’ outside the school and rushed past them,” according to the report.
Wilkins says he and Coral Springs Detective Gil Monzon, along with an “unknown BSO Deputy,” then approached the freshman building where Cruz killed 17 people. They could see bullet holes in the windows and doors.
When Wilkins and Monzon entered, they found the dead and wounded. Cruz had already fled about five minutes before the officers went in, according to a timeline of the shooting released by BSO last month.
BSO has said its deputies did not know where the shooter was — but some of them may also have been waiting for SWAT officers before going in.
According to a report released by the Margate Police Department last week, a Margate police officer who responded to the shooting wrote that when he arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a BSO deputy told him: “Standby SWAT is on the way.”
Margate police officer Chad Ryen wrote: “I informed the deputy that I was a SRT/SWAT operator and there was no time to wait. Based on my training and experience, I made the determination to make entry into the school.”
On February 28, Fox News reported that a commanding officer at the scene ordered first responders to “stage” and set up a “perimeter” outside the building — instead of allowing officers to rush into the school.
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.”
In most active shooter situations, law enforcement officers are trained to immediately go toward the direction of the shooter and neutralize the threat. Seventeen people died and seventeen were injured in the February 14 shooting.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is now facing an unprecedented no-confidence vote by police union members.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association launched an electronic poll Friday night, asking its members about their confidence in Sheriff Israel. In-person voting began on Monday and the poll ends Thursday night.
The Federation of Public Employees voiced its support of the embattled sheriff on Monday.