Instead of rushing in, several Broward County sheriff’s deputies waited outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while a killer gunned down schoolchildren, according to other officers on the scene.
The sheriff’s office is investigating the reports by Coral Springs, Fla., police officers, Sheriff Scott Israel told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The allegations emerged a day after another deputy, assigned to guard the school, resigned under pressure, also for failing to enter the building during the shooting.
In all, at least three deputies waited outside, including School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, police sources told the Sun Sentinel.
The allegations add to a series of failures that have come to light since a gunman, whom authorities identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people and wounded 16.
Two additional deputies are being investigated over whether they mishandled warnings about Cruz in the months before the shooting; the FBI has admitted it failed to investigate similar claims; and the Florida Department of Children and Families, which looked into concerns about Cruz, concluded that he was no risk to himself or others.
Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell said the city wants answers to the allegations. If proved true, “it not only makes me angry, it makes me furious,” he said.
Israel said three Coral Springs officers said one or more sheriff’s deputies did not go into the school building when they should have, and the officers’ concerns were relayed to the sheriff’s office by the Coral Springs police chief.
The sheriff said his office plans to interview the Coral Springs officers who lodged the complaint.
“If our investigation shows that our deputies made no mistakes or did things right, or it’s not corroborated, there will be no issue,” Israel said.
“If we find out, as we did with Peterson, that our deputies made mistakes and didn’t go in, I’ll handle it like I always have. I’ll handle any violations of policy or procedures or whatever accordingly.”
The sheriff did not say when the Coral Springs police made their allegations. He did not bring it up at his televised news conference Thursday.
“We will do an accurate, meticulous investigation,” Israel said.
Asked how he feels about such an accusation being leveled against his deputies — by other law enforcement officers, no less — the sheriff did not say he was shaken by the thought.
“Being in police work as long as I have, I’ve seen allegations that end up being accurate and allegations that end up being inaccurate,” he said. “I don’t really have an opinion on allegations. I deal with facts, not allegations. We’ll want to see where the facts are, and we’ll go from there.”
The Coral Springs city manager angrily confronted Israel the day after the shooting about the deputies’ response, sources told the Sun Sentinel.
Late Friday, City Manager Mike Goodrum would say only: “We had a heated discussion. But I’m not going to disclose the aspects of the conversation, and our agencies have a good working relationship.”
Citing the continuing investigation, Campbell said he wanted to make sure the two police agencies continue to work well together.
In a statement late Friday, the Coral Springs Police Department said it hadn’t officially commented about the allegations.
“Any actions or inactions that negatively affected the response will be investigated thoroughly, and the information will be released officially,” Sgt. Carla Kmiotek said in a statement. “There were countless deputies and officers who responded on that fateful day from multiple jurisdictions, whose actions were nothing short of heroic.”
Huriash and O’Matz write for the Sun Sentinel.