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Highlights from a long article-
Victim's parents and members of the public on Tuesday got their first glimpse of how accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz moved through Stoneman Douglas High School during the massacre.
A chilling animation showed Cruz — as a black dot with a line that depicted his AR-15 rifle — methodically stalking through the building and shooting victims. As each person was hit, the color of the dot that represented them changed color — from green for students and blue for teachers to yellow to show the injured and purple for the murdered.
The rudimentary video, made by investigators from the Broward Sheriff’s Office, provides the first account of Cruz’s movements during approximately six minutes and 45 seconds he spent inside the school building on Feb. 14. It was played at Tuesday’s first meeting of the state commission investigating “system failures” related to the Parkland school mass shooting.
Though the animation only showed dots moving around on a map of Building 12, it was very disturbing to watch.
“I knew which dot was my daughter so it was pretty brutal for me,” said Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was murdered.
He is one of the panel members appointed to the commission and promised he won’t rest until he gets answers.
“I want everyone in Broward to know what happened,” Pollack said.
The panel, which includes Pollack and the parents of two other murdered students, held its first meeting for several hours on Tuesday on the Broward College North Campus in Coconut Creek. The commission will issue one or more reports detailing the failures and recommending improvements.
Other information revealed by investigators on Tuesday: Cruz researched the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado while he planned his own attack.
Sheriff’s detectives put together the animation, which left many in the audience wiping away tears, using information they gleaned from witness interviews and their review of security video footage from inside the building.
"The presentation reminded me of a video game -- 'How many kills can I get?' " said Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley.
The Cruz “dot” is portrayed entering the building and going into a stairwell on the first floor where authorities said he removed his legally-bought AR-15 rifle from a “rifle case” and loaded it.
The shooter then emerged from the stairwell and shot victims in the first-floor hallway and classrooms. Investigators said he never entered any of the classrooms, but shot through doors and small windows in those doors. All of the victims were shot on the first and third floor — and nobody on the second floor was hit, officials told the commission.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission’s chairman, said appears that was because victims on the first floor had no warning, victims on the second floor probably heard the shots fired on the first floor and reacted by taking cover and hiding as recommended during “Code Red” active shooter incidents.
Investigators said they believe that victims on the third floor were left more vulnerable because the smoke generated by the shots fired on the first floor set off the building’s fire alarm. The people on the third floor probably did not hear the shots and reacted as they were trained to do during a fire drill and began to leave their classrooms, leaving many of them in the hallways or unable to hide effectively in the classrooms, Gualtieri said.
“We’ve got some hard questions that need to be answered,” Gualtieri said, promising the process will be fair and based on facts. He said he plans to hold most or all of the panel’s meetings in Broward County, though the panel also discussed holding some meetings in other areas of the state to hear the concerns of residents throughout Florida.
Some individuals and entities are not cooperating with the investigations, Gualtieri said, but he said the panel will invoke its subpoena power to get the records it needs.
“We are going to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
The animated video was shown during a briefing on the criminal investigation by Col. Jack Dale and homicide detective Zack Scott, of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
After the meeting, the commission members were brought for a private tour of the high school property. They were told they would not be allowed to enter Building 12, which is still considered an active crime scene.
The commission has very broad powers, including the authority to subpoena witnesses and review records that would normally be confidential.
Commission members will investigate what went wrong before, during and after the massacre and will also examine prior mass violence incidents. They are also required to come up with a timeline of the incident, the response and all relevant events before massacre, including any contacts Cruz had with local, state and national government agencies.
The panel members will also investigate the response by local law enforcement and school resource officers.
They must also identify and evaluation policies and procedures for future school attacks and evaluate the extent to which any failures contributed to deaths and injuries.
The panel is required to issue an initial report on Jan. 1, and can issue yearly reports until July 2023.
Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, appointed the members.
Scott named Gualtieri — one of Corcoran’s commission picks — to serve as the panel’s chairman.
Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, and Max Schachter, father of Alex Schachter, are also serving on the panel. The only other Broward resident on the panel is state Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat whose district includes Coral Springs.
Other members include law enforcement, prosecution and education officials from around the state, as well as a mental health expert.
I wonder what they will dig up?