The same Florida school shooting that ignited a national gun-control movement has since fueled a rallying cry for arming teachers, thanks to a devastating state report detailing the bungled response of Broward County law enforcement.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s recently released draft report detailed a series of mistakes, missteps and profiles in cowardice that contributed to the carnage, prompting the panel to vote 16-1 last week to recommend arming willing teachers.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who served on the commission, said the early reaction by the Broward County Sheriff’s Department should “shock the conscience of every professional law enforcement officer, as well as the community.”
“It shakes me to my core how bad it was, that initial response,” Sheriff Judd said. “You expect confusion and chaos in the first few minutes of a major event, but there needs to be chaos and confusion as we run toward the emergency, and in this event, there was chaos and confusion from non-action.”
Among the 407-page report’s findings: Broward County deputy Scot Peterson, who was assigned to the school, was the first at the scene but failed to enter the building and told others to stay 500 feet away, in violation of widely accepted mass-shooter protocols.
Other deputies remained at the staging area, prompting the commission to recommend an internal investigation into their conduct. Capt. Jan Jordan, the incident commander, was described as “overwhelmed,” and the departmental radios failed at crucial moments.
The first officers to enter the school came from the Coral Springs Police Department, who rushed in shortly after arriving, joined by Broward officers. At that point, accused shooter Nikolas Cruz already had left the building. The Feb. 14 massacre left 17 students and faculty dead and another 17 injured.
“The absence of strong leadership and direction undoubtedly contributed to an ineffective response,” said the report, which will be presented in its final form Jan. 1 to the Florida governor and state legislature.