Broward Sheriff's Office deputies were taking cover behind cars and a tree as they responded to the worst school shooting in Florida history — even though one deputy said he knew where the shooter was, according to an officer report released Tuesday by the Coral Springs Police Department.
"I was advised by an unknown BSO Deputy taking cover behind a tree, 'he is on the third floor,' " wrote Coral Springs officer Bryan Wilkins in a report recounting his arrival at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 and his subsequent actions to try to find the shooter and save lives.
Another Coral Springs cop who arrived at Stoneman Douglas within minutes of the shooting, Sgt. Nick Mazzei, confirmed that he saw BSO deputies "taking positions" outside the school and rushed past them, according to a report he filed that was also released Tuesday.
Although the BSO deputies arrived before Coral Springs police, they didn't immediately attempt to track down shooter Nikolas Cruz or aid the wounded, according to the reports. Law enforcement officers around the county are trained to find and confront active shooters without delay. Seventeen people died at Stoneman Douglas.
The newly released reports suggest the problems with BSO's response to the Parkland shooting go beyond the school's resource officer, Deputy Scot Peterson, who was at the school when the shooting began but never went into the freshman building attacked by Cruz. At least three other BSO deputies arrived on campus in time to hear gunfire but said they couldn't locate where the shooting was taking place. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel held a news conference in February to announce Peterson's resignation, saying he was "sick to my stomach" the deputy didn't go inside.
Wilkins wrote that he arrived at Stoneman Douglas within two minutes of learning it was being shot up. BSO was already there.
"I saw approximately four Broward County Sheriff's Office vehicles parked [on the road outside the school] ... with their personnel taking up exterior positions behind their vehicles," Wilkins wrote in the report. "I drove up just west of the campus building 1200, exited my vehicle, grabbed my AR-15 rifle and donned on my tactical/medical gear."
That's when he encountered the BSO deputy behind the tree who said he knew where Cruz was.
Wilkins says he and Coral Springs Detective Gil Monzon, along with an "unknown BSO Deputy," then approached the freshman building where Cruz killed 17 people. They could see bullet holes in the windows and doors.
When Wilkins and Monzon entered, they found the dead and wounded. Cruz had already fled about five minutes before the officers went in, according to a timeline of the shooting released by BSO last month.
BSO has said its deputies did not know where the shooter was — but some of them may also have been waiting for SWAT officers before going in.
One Margate police officer who also responded to Stoneman Douglas wrote that when he arrived, a BSO deputy told him, "Standby SWAT is on the way," according to a report released by the Margate Police Department last week.
"I informed the deputy that I was a SRT/SWAT operator and there was no time to wait," Margate officer Chad Ryen wrote. "Based on my training and experience, I made the determination to make entry into the school.
BSO said it could not confirm the reports from Coral Springs that other deputies waited.
"There are different accounts of what happened," said BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion in an email. "The only two [law enforcement officer] that have been confirmed as not making entry are BSO Deputy Scot Peterson and that Coral Springs PD Officer Burton."
Concepcion was referring to Coral Springs officer Tim Burton, the first person from that department on the scene, who is credited by his commanders with providing information that led other police officers to enter Building 12. Burton did not immediately enter the building, saying that Peterson told him to watch out in case the shooter was planning an ambush.
Inside Building 12, Coral Springs officers who entered soon after were getting bad information on Cruz's location, another report released Tuesday shows.
Sgt. Scott Myers said that Coral Springs dispatch told him Cruz was still inside the building as he made his way to the second floor of Building 12.
"Dispatch advised that they were watching the shooter via cctv," Myers wrote. "We were advised over the radio that the shooter was preparing to exit the east stairwell on the second floor ... We prepared to engage the shooter on the second floor."
But the school security footage was on a roughly 20-minute tape delay, unbeknownst to Myers and his team of cops. That meant Cruz, who would be arrested an hour later off campus, was already gone. The miscommunication meant some officers were searching for Cruz in the wrong place.
"Our team transitioned to a rescue team and we evacuated every classroom on the second floor," Myers stated.
So far, Peterson is the only BSO deputy to face repercussions for his actions that day. He remains the subject of a pending internal affairs investigation.
BSO has a contract to police the town of Parkland. Cops from neighboring Coral Springs also showed up at Stoneman Douglas to help, as did law enforcement personnel from around Broward County.