Anthony Borges has been hailed as a hero ever since news broke that the 15-year-old was shot five times during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting while trying to lock a classroom door and protect his peers.
In a Friday afternoon press conference, the teen’s family announced it is done with that narrative. No more “bubblegum hero stuff,” said Alex Arreaza, the family’s lawyer.
“The family is adamant that we have to address the failure of [the Broward Sheriff’s Office],” he said. “This is a serious matter.”
Anthony spent seven weeks in the intensive care unit — some of it in a coma — where parts of his organs were removed. The hospital bill will likely top $1.5 million, Arreaza said. A GoFundMe for Anthony’s medical bills has raised more than $800,000.
No More Tears, a charity for survivors of domestic violence, also raised $37,000 for the family and helped them afford a new home without stairs to accommodate Anthony’s wheelchair. The group covered the first and last month’s rent, as well as the security deposit and $1,000 of each month’s rent for the next year.
Borges’ father believes his son might not have been so severely injured if the school’s resource officer, a Broward County deputy, hadn’t waited outside the building while the shooter massacred 17 people instead of going inside. The officer immediately resigned. CNN also reported that three other BSO deputies waited outside the building rather than engaging the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.
“While this young man’s fending off an AR-15 and he’s getting hit with AR-15 bullets, these guys are just standing outside,” Arreaza said.
The family’s lawyer also cast blame on the Broward County School board for the PROMISE Program, which aims to keep students out of the juvenile justice system. When students commit a nonviolent offense at school, like making a threat, bullying or harassing a classmate, or vandalizing school property, they can participate in the program in lieu of being suspended or arrested.
The theory that the program allowed Cruz to remain out of custody despite years of red flags, violent threats and brushes with Florida’s Baker Act has circulated in conservative circles and news sites online. Arreaza said it “allowed Nikolas Cruz to blossom.”
“They created this atmosphere where you have a criminal brewing there,” he said. “It was common knowledge that you could go into that school and not get arrested.”
However, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Miami New Times that Cruz wasn’t in the program. His administration hasn’t released information on Cruz’s education and disciplinary records.
Arreaza announced plans to sue Cruz, his dead mother’s estate and the family that housed him after her death — the Sneads. Later, he said he’ll add BSO and the School Board to the suit, although the law requires prior notice and a six-month wait before those government entities can be sued.
“The Borges family doesn’t want to wait for months to get started,” Arreaza said.