The deputies who were among the first to arrive to the scene of the Florida school massacre were found cowering behind their cars and a nearby tree and had no idea where the gunman was, according to an official report released Tuesday.
The report from Coral Springs Officer Bryan Wilkins details how he arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School within minutes of the active shooter alert — only to find Broward County Sheriff’s Officers hadn’t entered the school, but were instead taking cover.
“I saw approximately four Broward County Sheriff’s Office vehicles parked in the west bound lane with their personnel taking up exterior positions behind their vehicles,” Wilkins wrote. “I drove up just west of the campus building 1200, exited my vehicle, grabbed my AR-15 rifle and donned on my tactical/medical gear. As I was advancing on foot through the chain-link fence, I was advised by an unknown BSO Deputy taking cover behind a tree, ‘he is on the third floor.'”
Wilkins added he was joined by two others officers to enter the building, where he saw the dead and wounded. The police officer’s report was first revealed by the Miami Herald.
Seventeen people were killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting, during which alleged gunman Nicholas Cruz opened fire and then fled five minutes before officers went into the building.
In another police report released Tuesday, Coral Springs Officer Scott Myers wrote that police were originally told by dispatch that authorities were watching the gunman on surveillance video, who was “preparing to exit the East stairwell on the second floor.”
“We were prepared to engage the shooter on the second floor,” Myers wrote. “After several moments we were advised the CCTV was not live and that an unknown delay existed. We were later informed that the suspect was seen exiting the building via CCTV. Our team transitioned to a rescue team and we evacuated every classroom on the second floor.”
In the wake of the shooting, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office received heavycriticism for its handling of the situation, including the actions of Scot Peterson, the school’s resource officer, who stood outside the building as the attack unfolded.
The former deputy denied wrongdoing and retired from the office before an investigation was launched. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office released footage of the shooting that showed Peterson spending most of the time during the shooting standing outside the school with his gun drawn.
The report released Tuesday indicates it wasn’t just Peterson that couldn’t find Cruz, as Wilkins noted in his report the other officers at the scene couldn’t locate where the shooting took place.
Meanwhile, school safety issues are being revealed, too.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission at its first meeting on Tuesday that teachers couldn’t lock their classroom doors from the inside as they tried to lock down their students on Feb. 14. Instead, teachers had to open their doors and use a key to lock them from the outside.
The doors also had small windows, which allowed Cruz to fire into the locked
Broward sheriff’s radios were also not on the same channel as Coral Springs police, the two primary agencies that responded, officials said Tuesday.
Attempts to merge the radio channels failed, which prevented the two departments from sharing information. Coral Springs and Broward are also on separate 911 systems and calls were coming into both, the commission heard.
Kathleen Joyce, Elizabeth Zwirz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.