Broward County

BSO deputies heard gunfire at Parkland school but couldn't find it. These cops rushed in.

Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz is arrested on Wed., Feb. 14. 2018.
Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz is arrested on Wed., Feb. 14. 2018.

The first Broward Sheriff's Office deputies to arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland heard gunfire but couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

But Coral Springs Police Department officers who arrived soon after zeroed in on the freshman building attacked by Nikolas Cruz, according to incident reports released by Coral Springs Monday.

Officer Gil Monzon stated in one report that he heard on his radio Cruz had been spotted near the 1200 building and hurried in that direction after he got an "active shooter" call.

"I observed two [BSO] deputies in the parking lot," Monzon wrote in the narrative report released amid intense scrutiny of law enforcement's response to a deadly rampage that left 17 students and staff dead on Feb. 14. "I asked them where the shooter was but they advised his location was unknown. I directed my attention to the 1200 building where I observed a [victim] lying on his back."

A window on the third floor, Monzon saw, was still intact "but had visible bullet impact marks."

He and three other Coral Springs officers rushed in through the building's west door and began searching for Cruz and aiding victims. "The hallway was quiet and full of thick smoke from gunfire," Monzon wrote.

The Coral Springs Fire Department released a series of radio dispatches from their response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.

On the third floor, he found "several deceased students."

The Coral Springs officers entered the building at 2:32 p.m., 11 minutes after the shooting began and five minutes after Cruz had already slipped away. The delay has angered some parents of the students who died in Parkland.

"6 on 3rd [floor] may have lived if anyone had gone in," tweeted Ryan Petty, father to slain student Alaina Petty, after BSO released some deputy narratives on Friday.

Those narratives showed that at least three BSO deputies arrived on campus quickly enough to hear gunfire but couldn't put an end to Cruz's killing. Another deputy was already there.

One of the reports released Monday came from Coral Springs Officer Tim Burton, the first Coral Springs cop to arrive. He stated that a Stoneman Douglas employee gave him a description of the suspect and his last location. That was the call Monzon heard over the radio.

Burton then says he encountered BSO Deputy Scot Peterson, Stoneman Douglas school resource officer.

"I observed Dep. Peterson seeking cover behind a concrete column," Burton wrote. "Dep. Peterson advised he hadn't heard any gunfire for a few minutes and didn't know the exact location of the shooter. Dep. Peterson advised that I needed to watch my back in case the shooter was behind me, hiding in the parking lot."

The Broward Sheriff's Office released surveillance video from outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during and after the shooting by Nikolas Cruz that killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

That's when Coral Springs officers, joined by BSO deputies, arrived on scene and began searching the building, Burton states. Burton wrote that he held his position outside in case "there was a possible ambush from the parking lot," only later assisting victims. His account of Peterson's position was corroborated by surveillance video earlier released by BSO.

Peterson was publicly criticized by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel after the shooting. He later resigned.

Confusion over Cruz's location may have stymied first responders trying to save lives. For instance, air rescues were denied over fears Cruz could strike again. He was arrested more than an hour after the shooting began off campus.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating law enforcement's response to the shooting. Broward County has hired a nonprofit group called the Police Foundation to conduct its own investigation.

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