Officer Chris Fahey burst through the west doors of the freshman building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and rushed up a flight of stairs that only minutes earlier had served as an exit route for Florida’s most heinous school shooter.
As police scrambled for miles to get to Parkland and onto the school’s campus, Fahey watched as special police response teams bounded past him to the third floor. Then, terrified and trembling students streamed back down the stairwell and out the building, leaving behind the dead and gravely wounded.
That snapshot is just one of dozens detailed in snippets through reports released Friday by Coral Springs police, whose officers were the first to enter the building where Nikolas Cruz’s rampage for six minutes with a semiautomatic rifle on Valentine’s Day killed 17 and injured 17 others.
The officers’ narratives, published a day after the Broward Sheriff’s Office released a timeline of its own response to the shooting, filled in more details of the law enforcement reaction to the lethal assault and its chaotic aftermath. While BSO has taken national heat over a school deputy who did not try to fire at Cruz and a trio of other deputies who delayed storming the school, no one has yet raised questions about the actions of Coral Springs police.
“As soon as our guys found out about [the shooting] we had 130 officers and probably 40 of our EMS first responders there,” said Coral Springs Mayor Walter “Skip” Campbell. “I’m really truly proud of the guys and gals we have.”
The reports, submitted by 38 Coral Springs officers, show many rushed to the school in marked and unmarked cars and then ran to the building. One team drove up in an armored Bearcat SWAT vehicle. Some police rescued students. Others set up in tactical positions hoping to spot the shooter.
A BSO timeline now shows that Cruz had stopped shooting, thrown down his rifle and slipped unnoticed off campus well before any of the Coral Springs officers arrived. But they didn’t know that at the time.
As Fahey and three other Coral Springs officers rushed into the building from the west, Officer Mark Mitter watched the scene unfold from the other side of the structure. He grabbed a rifle from the trunk of his car, then, the officer wrote, “positioned myself to cover the North and West side of building 12 in the event the suspect exited the building or in case shots were fired from an elevated position from the building.”
As the first to enter the shot-up building, Coral Springs police encountered a scene so disturbing that dozens sought counseling afterward.
Officer Augusto Carvalho wrote in his report that as they cleared the first floor, he saw “several wounded and deceased” students.
Officer Steve Wiesing, who’d parked his vehicle on the north side of the 1200 Building, grabbed his rifle and ran toward the site of the shooting. He said he “observed a male deceased lying on the ground next to the west side entry doors.”
“I also observed what appeared to be bullet holes through the third-floor glass window,” he wrote. People who have since visited the scene reported that the hurricane-proof windows on the third-floor teacher’s lounge didn’t shatter, stopping Cruz from firing into the students leaving the building below.
Wiesing said he cleared the stairwell and made his way to the second floor “in an attempt to locate the shooting suspect.”
All the doors on the second floor were locked so the officer checked each room for injured students. He said he helped evacuate several students and faculty.
As police rushed to the 1200 building, some encountered wounded students trying to flee.
Officer Scott Russo responded to the scene with an equipment truck and soon joined other officers in the Bearcat. The officer said he helped treat a girl whose knee was injured and then positioned himself at the northwest corner of Building 12. When he heard Cruz had been captured, he drove to the scene about a mile south of the shooting site.
Elsewhere, Officer Ryan Liss encountered two injured students on a grassy area. After they were transported the officer proceeded to the northeast parking lot outside of Building 12, “where the last known shots were fired, positioning myself for a clear viewpoint of the second story window by the staircase.”
Once it was determined Cruz was gone, he helped clear students from the Band Auditorium next door, Liss said.
Other police rushed to a nearby Walmart where a man fitting Cruz’s description had been seen, but he was gone. They rushed to McDonald’s, but again he was gone. Cruz was eventually found on the street near a subdivision called Pelican Pointe by a Coconut Creek officer.