A combination of incompetence, poor training and inaction led to the Valentine's Day massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida - claim 15 current or former students in a new federal lawsuit which points the finger directly at Broward County law enforcement.
"Law enforcement choked," said Detroit civil rights attorney Solomon Radner, who filed the lawsuit, adding "Cops are heroes, and they’re supposed to be heroes."
“This lawsuit should not be misconstrued in any way as a shot at law enforcement,” he said. “This is a shot at specific law-enforcement officers that failed those students.”
Recent graduate Audrey Diaz, one of the plaintiffs, said that on the day of the shooting, she was thinking about prom and graduating, but “some of my friends who were killed that day weren’t able to go to these events.”
Her voice breaking, she said, “We thought we were safe at school and we would always be protected,” adding, “We deserved more from our law enforcement.”
Calling it “a parent’s worst nightmare,“ Audrey’s mother, Iris, said, choking with emotion, “I am outraged at how the defendants in this lawsuit responded to this shooting.” -Palm Beach Post
The lawsuit was filed in federal court because it alleges constitutional rights were violated, and because Florida courts cap lawsuit awards against local governments at $300,000, reports the Palm Beach Post.
Defendants in the suit include Sheriff Scott Israel and disgraced former school resource officer Scot Peterson, who was seen on CCTV footage driving a golf cart up to the high school building during the shooting, only to hop off, unholster his gun, and run behind a concrete wall for cover.
BREAKING: Broward County Sheriff's Office releases security video showing Deputy Scot Peterson's actions (or inactions...) during the February 14 shooting. pic.twitter.com/QnILMn87Yp— Wired Sources (@WiredSources) March 15, 2018
Peterson, 54, dubbed the "Broward coward," was blasted by Sheriff Israel a week after the shooting - who said Peterson should have "went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer," adding that the deputy's failure to act left him "devastated" and sick to his stomach.
The lawsuit claims that during “eight minutes of hell,” numerous “failures by numerous government actors, including law enforcement, strongly continued to Shooter’s ability to carry out this horrific attack without which this attack could not have happened.”
Peterson lied, told other officers not to do their jobs
Following the shooting, Petersen issued a statement through his attorney denying any wrongdoing - and said that he thought the shots were being fired from outside the school.
Internal radio dispatches released by the Broward County Sheriff's Office in March , however, reveal Peterson immediately focused on Building 12 and radioed that gunfire was happening "inside."
What's more - Peterson warned his fellow officer to stay away - despite wounded students and staff inside who required assistance. Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) policy requires deputies to engage an active shooter and eliminate the threat.
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away,” shouted a panicked Peterson as people screamed in the background.
The records appear to support Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s contention that Peterson, a longtime school resource officer, should have entered Building 12 to engage Cruz and try to prevent deaths. They also appear to show that other deputies may have refrained from rushing into the school at the direction of Peterson and a Parkland captain. The response by the agency has been the subject of national scrutiny, and is currently under review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. -Miami Herald
The lawsuit reads in part:
"Defendant SCOT PETERSON was at all pertinent times a Broward County deputy and was specifically tasked with protecting the Plaintiffs, even [if] it meant risking his own life. It was and is a heroic job and one upon which people reply in the case of a life and death emergency. He was tasked with the job to protect the children at the school with the knowledge that he was possibly the only armed person in the immediate vicinity of the school. His job duties required him to run towards danger at risk of life and limb, and not to run away from danger for the sole purpose of sole-preservation."
The suit then goes on to claim "His arbitrary and conscience-shocking actions and inactions directly and predictably caused children to die, get injured, and get traumatized."
Also named in the suit is Broward County Captain Jan Jordan for allegedly refusing to allow emergency personnel to enter the school, as well as school guard Andrew Medina for failing to stop the shooter "even though he saw Shooter walk past him and he recognized Shooter to be a known danger to the school."
Instead, the plaintiffs claim, Medina "radioed ahead to warn fellow monitor David Taylor that a suspicious kid was headed his way."
The Broward Sheriff's office as well as Broward County Public Schools said on Tuesday morning that they don't comment on active suits, according to The Post.
Read the suit below: