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FL School Officer Stayed Outside       02/23 06:11

   FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- The armed officer on duty at the Florida 
school where a shooter killed 17 people never went inside to engage the gunman 
and has been placed under investigation, officials announced Thursday.

   The Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a 
gunman armed with an AR-15 style assault rifle has reignited national debate 
over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by President Donald Trump 
and others to designate more people --- including trained teachers --- to carry 
arms on school grounds. Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, have redoubled their 
push to ban assault rifles.

   The school resource officer at the high school took up a position viewing 
the western entrance of the building that was under attack for more than four 
minutes, but "he never went in," Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a 
Thursday news conference. The shooting lasted about six minutes.

   The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under 
investigation, then chose to resign, Israel said. When asked what Peterson 
should have done, Israel said the deputy should have "went in, addressed the 
killer, killed the killer."

   A telephone message left at a listing for Peterson by The Associated Press 
wasn't immediately returned. An AP reporter who later went to Peterson's home 
in a suburb of West Palm Beach saw lights on and cars in the driveway, but no 
one answered the door when AP attempted to get further comment.

   The sheriff said he was "devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. 
I mean, these families lost their children. .... I've been to the funerals. ... 
I've been to the vigils. It's just, ah, there are no words."

   There was also a communication issue between the person reviewing the 
school's security system footage and officers who responded to the school.

   Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said during a Thursday news 
conference that the footage being reviewed was 20 minutes old, so the 
responding officers were hearing that the shooter was in a certain place while 
officers already in that location were saying that wasn't the case.

   "There was nothing wrong with their equipment. Their equipment works," 
Pustizzi said. "It's just that when the person was reviewing the tape from 20 
minutes earlier, somehow that wasn't communicated to the officers that it was a 
20-minute delay."

   Pustizzi said the confusion didn't put anyone in danger.

   Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder 
and has admitted the attack. He owned a collection of weapons. Defense 
attorneys, state records and people who knew him indicate that he displayed 
behavioral troubles for years.

   Broward County incident reports show that unidentified callers contacted 
authorities with concerns about Cruz in February 2016 and November 2017. The 
first caller said they had third-hand information that Cruz planned to shoot up 
the school. The information was forwarded to the Stoneman Douglas resource 
officer. The second caller said Cruz was collecting guns and knives and 
believed "he could be a school shooter in the making."

   Also in November 2017, Cruz was involved in a fight with the adult son of a 
woman he was staying with shortly after his mother died, according to a Palm 
Beach County Sheriff's Office report. On Nov. 28, a 22-year-old man at the Lake 
Worth home told the responding deputy the he tried to calm down Cruz, who had 
been punching holes in walls and breaking objects, but Cruz hit him in the jaw, 
and the man hit Cruz back.

   The deputy found Cruz a short time later at a nearby park. Cruz told the 
deputy he had been angry because he misplaced a photo of his recently deceased 
mother, and he apologized for losing his temper.

   The other man told the deputy he didn't want Cruz arrested. He just wanted 
Cruz to calm down before coming home.

   Politicians under pressure to tighten gun laws in response to the mass 
shooting floated various plans Thursday, but most fell short of reforms 
demanded by student activists who converged Wednesday on Florida's Capitol.

   Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Thursday night that his chamber 
is going to recommend creating a special commission to investigate the "abject 
breakdown at all levels" that led to the shooting deaths.

   The Republican said the commission, likely be led by a parent of one of the 
slain children, would have subpoena power.

   Corcoran also said the news about the resource officer's failure to respond 
did not dissuade him from moving ahead with what he was calling the "marshal" 
plan to let local law-enforcement officials train and deputize someone at the 
school who would be authorized to carry a gun.

   "He's not indicative of the law enforcement community; that's not going to 
change our behavior at all," Corcoran said.

   State Sen. Bill Galvano, who is helping craft a bill in response to the 
shooting deaths, insisted the idea is not the same as arming teachers. He said 
the program would be optional and the deputized person would have to be trained 
by local law-enforcement agencies.

   U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said a visit to Stoneman Douglas prompted 
him to change his stance on large capacity magazines. The Republican insisted 
he is willing to rethink his past opposition on gun proposals if there is 
information the policies would prevent mass shootings.

   "If we are going to infringe on the Second Amendment, it has to be a policy 
that will work," Rubio said in an interview Thursday with AP.

   A day after an emotional meeting with survivors and their families, Trump 
tweeted his strongest stance yet on gun control. He said he would endorse 
strengthening background checks, banning "bump stock" style devices and raising 
the minimum age to 21 for buying certain rifles.

   At a conference of conservative activists Thursday near Washington, Vice 
President Mike Pence said the administration would make school safety "our top 
national priority" after the shooting at the school in Parkland, Florida.

   Calling school shootings "evil in our time," Pence exhorted those in 
positions of authority "to find a way to come together with American solutions."

   It was a markedly different tone than that deployed on stage minutes earlier 
by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, who delivered an 
unbowed defense of gun ownership and lashed out at Democrats --- saying they 
are using the tragedy for "political gain."


(KA)

 
 
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