Report concludes series of failings by law enforcement, school officials helped Parkland shooting succeed

Law enforcement and officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were “unprepared and overwhelmed” in their handling of February’s mass shooting in Parkland, according to a lengthy report released by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The report finds that many times no one took charge and authorities failed to act, leaving children stranded with nowhere to hide as Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly opened fire on his former schoolmates on Feb. 14. 

“A gunman with an AR-15 fired the bullets, but a series of blunder, bad policies, sketchy training and poor leadership helped him succeed,” the Sun Sentinel wrote, 10 months of reporting that culminated in a minute-by-minute account of the massacre that lasted nearly an hour. 

Cruz arrived at the school at 2:19 p.m. and was allegedly spotted walking with a rifle bag by an unarmed school official acting as a security monitor who was unlocking gates ahead of dismissal. But he did not stop Cruz as he entered Building 12

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An empty chair is seen in front of flowers and mementoes placed on a fence to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Daniela Menescal, who was injured by shrapnel during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wears a t-shirt with the names of the victims of the shooting, as she plays the piano at her house in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Daniela Menescal (R), who was injured by shrapnel during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, attends a baseball game her brother is playing in, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, cries next to his family after painting a mural to commemorate the victims of the shooting and promote gun control in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 7, 2018. Listening to his son's favourite music, Oliver painted the mural from beginning to end, but as soon as he finished, he broke down and had to walk inside the hotel to mourn. Later he went out again to give interviews to the media to call for more gun control. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, cries in his hotel room before painting a mural to commemorate the victims of the shooting and promote gun control in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 7, 2018. Minutes before leaving the hotel room to paint the mural, Oliver put on his son's headphones and played his favourite music. Almost immediately, he started to cry and he had to take them off. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A man looks at pictures of the victims of the mass shooting in Parkland on the program during the graduation ceremony for students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Sunrise, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Manuel Oliver (R) and Patricia Padauy (2nd R), parents of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, look at the screen as they wait backstage to receive their son's diploma during his graduation ceremony in Sunrise, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Patricia Padauy, the mother of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, holds up her son's diploma during his graduation ceremony in Sunrise, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, attend their graduation ceremony in Sunrise, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, walks past his son's classmates, during their graduation ceremony in Sunrise, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend their graduation ceremony in Sunrise, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Daniela Menescal, who was injured by shrapnel during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, helps her brother practice baseball at their house in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Autographed sports t-shirts, pictures and placards are seen among other mementoes at the room of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at his house in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
The entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is seen after the police security perimeter was removed, following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
A member of the media pushes a cart full of equipment in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A garbage bag full of crime scene tape is seen close to the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after the police security perimeter was removed, following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Patricia Padauy, the mother of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, talks to a journalist during an interview before attending her son's high school graduation ceremony to receive his diploma, at home in Parkland, Florida, U.S., June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Daniela Menescal, who was injured by shrapnel during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, looks for her belongings inside her clear backpack at her house in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
The initials of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a placard are placed on the fence at Park Trails Elementary School, following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, holds up a placard as he paints a mural to commemorate the victims of the shooting and promote gun control in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 7, 2018. As he paints the mural Oliver listens to his son's favourite music on the headphones that belonged to him. The mural depicts his son the day that he died, carrying flowers to his girlfriend for Valentine's day. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Carlos Rodriguez (2nd R), student and shooting survivor from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, talks with his schoolmates and co-founders of Stories Untold, a movement created to encourage victims of gun violence to share their stories, during a meeting at his house in Parkland, Florida, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
Pictures of Joaquin Oliver and Aaron Feis, victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, are seen on a cross placed in a park to commemorate the victims, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins 
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“He recognizes Cruz as ‘Crazy Boy,’ the former student that he and his colleagues had predicted most likely to shoot up the school,” the Sun Sentinel wrote. “He radios another campus monitor/coach, but he does not pursue Cruz and does not call a Code Red to lock down the school.”

He was the first of three school employees the Sun Sentinel said failed to call for a school lockdown after learning a gunman was on campus.

The shootings set off a fire alarm at 2:22 p.m. and drew children and teachers out of their classrooms. Had a Code Red been called, the student body would have known to remain in their classrooms and ignore the alarm, the paper wrote. A Code Red wouldn’t be called until 2:24 p.m., halfway through Cruz’s alleged assault.

Meanwhile, students on the third floor found themselves stranded as bathrooms and classrooms on the floor were locked. Geography teacher Scott Biegel was shot and killed trying to usher students into his classroom, while senior Meadow Pollack and freshman Cara Loughran were killed huddled together in the third floor hallway. Senior Joaquin Oliver was shot outside a locked bathroom.

The report showed law enforcement’s response time was slowed by Broward County’s disjointed 911 system, but noted that even after arriving on the scene, deputies did not enter the building to confront the shooter. 

“Since Columbine, officers are taught to rush toward gunshots and neutralize the killer. But the first Broward deputies don’t rush in,” the Sun Sentinel reported. “Broward Sheriff Scott Israel later reveals that he personally changed department policy to say that deputies ‘may’ instead of ‘shall’ rush in.”

At 2:27 p.m., Cruz escaped the school. He removed his rifle vest, dropped his AR-15 in a stairwell and ran from the building. Believing Cruz to still be inside the building, police remained outside. According to the report, an armed school resource officer already on campus when the shooting began warned deputies to stay away from the scene. And deputies unaware of a 20-minute delay in the school’s surveillance footage continued searching for Cruz in the video, delaying aid to injured students in the process. 

At 2:32 p.m., Coral Springs police arrived at the scene and rushed into the building.

“Basically, what we’re trained to do is just get right to the threat as quick as possible and take out the threat, because every time you hear a shot go off it could potentially be a kid getting killed or anybody getting killed for that matter,” Coral Springs Officer Raymond Kerner, the school resource officer at nearby J.P. Taravella High School, later told investigators.

In total, 17 were left dead and 17 others injured. Cruz was arrested at 3:41 p.m., 82 minutes after entering the school. A judge entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Cruz, who was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree. 

“To be sure, a number of teachers and police officers performed heroically,” the Sun Sentinel wrote. “But an examination of the day’s events reveals that the sheriff’s office and school district were unprepared for the crisis.”

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