Deputies heard shots but didn't enter Stoneman Douglas, records show

Evidence contradicts sheriff's claim that only one deputy was on campus

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

PARKLAND, Fla. - A nation’s outrage has been aimed at Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson, who stood armed outside for four minutes, while Nikolas Cruz slaughtered students and staff inside with his AR-15 rifle in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but recently released radio transmissions and dispatch records show there were several other breakdowns in BSO’s response. 

After sources alleged that three deputies were seen by responding Coral Springs Police Department officers taking cover instead of going into the building to neutralize the threat as policy dictates, Sheriff Scott Israel claimed point-blank during a CNN interview that Peterson was the only deputy present at the school while Cruz actually fired his weapon. But now his own agency’s records clearly contradict that, showing that several deputies were at the school while gunfire continued and that none of them entered the building before the gunfire ceased.  

The records reveal that the first two deputies who responded to the school didn’t go to the 1200 building – where Peterson clearly said the shooting was taking place – but instead first blocked traffic on nearby Holmberg Road. One of those deputies, Edward Eason, isn’t heard again on the radio transmissions released by BSO after saying he was blocking the westbound lanes, so what Eason did for the next three minutes while the shooting took place isn’t known. The other deputy, Michael Kratz, reported on the radio that after he blocked the eastbound lane he went to the football field. 

"I hear shots fired by the football field," Kratz said on his radio. 

That was at 2:25:08 p.m., two and a half minutes before the shooting stopped. The next several calls from Kratz indicate he remained at or near the football field, a short run from the 1200 building, throughout the shooting:

2:25:42 Kratz: "Some students thought it was firecrackers, but we’re not sure, by the football fields." 

2:26:34 Kratz: "I got more students running west towards the football field."

2:27:03  Kratz: "Right by the football field."

2:27:30 Last shots fired 

14:28:23 Kratz: "I got a victims with gunshot to the right leg .. west end by the football field." 

For retired Miami-Dade police Sgt. Mike Fisten, who also worked for a short time at BSO under Israel, Kratz’s behavior doesn’t add up.

"You run towards the shots," said Fisten. "The kids are running one way, you should be running toward the threat." 

BSO Detective Brian Goolsby also reported hearing gunshots about 30 seconds before the gunfire stopped. 

"We definitely have shots being fired," Goolsby said. 

During those crucial first four minutes, no deputy is heard saying a word about what they are supposedly trained to do: Go into the building and neutralizing the threat. When the records were released by BSO last week in a controlled media event that excluded national media outlets, Col. Jack Dale, who spoke instead of Israel, admitted the deputies didn’t get to the building in a timely fashion, but he said there was a reason for it.

"The movement toward the shooter in building 12 did not occur," said Dale. "But it did not occur because there was no information the shooter was in building 12."

Actually Peterson made it clear in his very first radio transmission that the shooting was coming from building 12, the 1200 building. Then, if deputies missed it the first time, he clearly reiterated it again about 30 seconds later, saying, "We're talking about the 1200 building, the building off of Holmberg road."

BSO’s Dale also offered another excuse for the deputies not going into the building. 

"There were people outside," said Dale, referring to deputies. "They did not go into the 1200 building initially because they were dealing with the possibility of shots being fired on the exterior of the building and into the football field." 

But no one is heard on the transmissions that have been released to date saying there were shots fired outside the building. The only transmission close is Kratz's call that he hears shots at the football field, but Kratz also reports that is where students are running for shelter. Fisten said what is missing is a supervisor – a sergeant, lieutenant, or captain – issuing the key order: Go to the threat and neutralize it. 

"If there was mass confusion going on at the scene amongst the arriving BSO units, why did no supervisor take charge?" Fisten asked rhetorically. "Somebody should have got on the air immediately and took over,  unless nobody knew what to do." 

It wasn't until eight full minutes into the call  that the first supervisor is heard, BSO’s Parkland commander, Capt. Jan Jordan. 

"I know there's a lot going on right now," she begins. "Do we have a perimeter and everybody cleared out of the school?" 

"That's negative," says a dispatcher. 

Fisten said talk of a perimeter made no sense at that time, since deputies still believed the shooter was in the building. 

Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell said responding officers from his city found deputies taking cover outside the building when they arrived. 

"I'm not going to criticize any BSO deputy," said Campbell. "All I can tell you is the actions and police activity was coming from the Coral Springs Police Department … This was the real blood and actions and some people react differently. My guys reacted properly." 

BSO records show it was a Coral Springs team of officers that first entered the building, assisted by two deputies.  

Despite the radio transmissions and dispatch records, Sheriff Israel has pointed solely at Peterson as the only deputy at fault in the response, claiming publicly he was the only deputy there while the shooting took place. 

"While the killer was on campus, during this horrific killing, there was one deputy, one armed person, within proximity of that school and that was Peterson," Israel said in a CNN interview 12 days after the shooting. 

"Obviously somebody gave him bad information," remarked Fisten, after reviewing the records. 

Fisten said the record appears to show that the BSO response to the shooting amounted not just to one man's failure but to an agency breakdown. 

"Where were the supervisors?" he asks. "Where was the training? How come it didn't kick in?"
 

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