Parents of MSD shooting victims waited for hours before finding out children's fate

Parents call for more attention, information to be given to families early on

SUNRISE, Fla. – Family members of victims killed in last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spoke before the MSD Public Safety Commission Wednesday about the lack of information they received the day of the tragedy.  

They said they waited for hours to learn if their loved ones were dead or alive. In the future, they said they'd like to see more attention and information given to families early on.

"We hope and pray that this community never has to experience this again," said Gena Hoyer, whose son, Luke, 15, was killed in the shooting. 

Hoyer was brought to tears as she remembered the moments of confusion as she sat in a Marriott hotel, not knowing whether Luke was one of the 17 victims killed after a gunman opened fire Feb. 14, 2018, at the Parkland school.

"That tragic day was brought upon us by a storm of failures," Hoyer said. 

The Hoyers were one of four families who said not only was there a lack of communication as they searched for information, but there was no comfort, attention or privacy given to them.

"You should be isolated when you are told, but I don't think you should be waiting for an hour," Luke's father, Tom Hoyer, said. 

Commission Chair and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at times law enforcement officials are conflicted because they want to make sure the information they provide is right.

"Our biggest fear is that we give you this notification and it is not that person," Judd said.  

But for families, they said wrong information is better than not knowing at all.

"I'd rather they give information and say, 'We are working to validate it. We are still vetting it, but here is what we think we know at this point. As we get updates, as we get more, we're going to let you know,'" said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime, 14, was killed in the shooting.

Wednesday's meeting was solely to hear from the families and receive feedback. It's unclear whether any changes will be made to how law enforcement agencies in South Florida inform families when they have lost loved ones in a similar tragedy.


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