BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said his agency will be enhancing patrols at schools throughout the county following Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas.
“For every single time that one of these school shootings or active shooter events happens anywhere in the U.S., it jogs up the memories of our own tragedy and it creates a level of fear and uncertainty in our communities,” he said Wednesday morning at a news conference.
The sheriff said he received more than 100 text messages and calls following the shooting from politicians, faith leaders, friends and family members asking whether it was safe to send their children to school Wednesday.
Tony said it is imperative that students continue going to class and that the enhanced patrols will continue for as long as they are able to sustain it.
The agency’s SWAT team and other special units will also be deployed to certain areas, but he declined to give too much detail about their security efforts.
He added that people need to put pressure on elected officials to make changes after not just this shooting, but many other school shootings that have occurred in the U.S.
“I’m empowering people to pay attention to their politics, to pay attention to their vote, because it matters in this capacity,” he said.
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright was also at Wednesday’s news conference, saying she was “angry” about the shooting, and also expressed her condolences for the victims and their families.
“Our hearts are broken for that community ... I pray for strength and unity as they pick up the pieces of this horrific event that they are now facing,” she said.
Cartwright noted that Tuesday’s shooting was the 30th school shooting in the country this year alone.
She said staff members or students who are struggling to cope with this latest shooting may receive free mental health counseling at the district’s schools.
According to a Texas public safety official, the 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers Tuesday at a Texas elementary school barricaded himself inside a classroom, “shooting anyone that was in his way.”
Police and others responding to Tuesday’s attack broke windows at the school in an effort to allow students and teachers inside to escape, Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today.”
Olivarez told CNN that all victims were in the same fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School.
Eventually, the shooter was killed by law enforcement.
“Here in Broward County, we know precisely what that feels like. We’ve been down that path,” Tony said.
A total of 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, which has already brought about change in security protocols in Broward County schools -- changes like having a single point of entry and random metal detection wanding.
“We are tracking and monitoring over 16,000 plus camera systems across all of our school systems here,” Tony said.
Tony encouraged the community to speak up if they are informed about any potential threats toward Broward’s schools.
He said since the agency’s Threat Management Unit was created, they have investigated about 1,600 threats and made more than 200 arrests.
He said there has been 556 times in which they referred subjects of their investigations to therapists and mental health experts to get them the help they need. About 185 of those people have continued receiving that healthcare, he said.