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Newly released surveillance video shows the chaos that erupted outside the Parkland school where a gunman prowled the hallways on Valentine’s Day.
The footage shows glimpses of the police response, but it does not answer many of the remaining questions about how law enforcement, school security and paramedics responded when Nikolas Cruz killed 17 staff and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
It shows deputies, police officers and school staff running toward the area of the shooting and directing students and staff to flee.
The video also shows deputies and officers — with their guns drawn — scanning the grounds, apparently still looking for the shooter minutes after he had abandoned his AR-15 rifle inside and escaped. Officers were uncertain where he was because some were watching delayed security footage they initially thought was playing in real time. The shooter had blended in with other students and ran to a nearby store, before he was arrested a short time later.
Also shown is at least one police officer, who is taking cover behind the engine area of a car, methodically moving his aimed gun back and forth. A law enforcement officer who watched the video said it’s recommended practice for some officers to take cover and use their guns to protect students and staff running out when the location of the shooter is not known.
Parts of the video are blurred to protect the identities of the students, including at least one victim who was rushed from the school on a golf cart less than three minutes after officers first went inside.
The Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for the Broward Sheriff’s Office to release two hours and ten minutes of video from five different cameras on Wednesday.
Media outlets, including the South Florida Sun Sentinel, requested the video to shed light on law enforcement’s response. The media did not ask for video depicting the inside of the school, Cruz or any of the victims.
The response of some Broward sheriff’s deputies and school security workers to the mass shooting has drawn national scrutiny, some of it critical.
Judge blasts Sun Sentinel for publishing confidential information in Parkland school shooting case
Coral Springs police officers said they saw some deputies taking cover outside instead of running into the 1200 building to try to save lives.
Segments of video that were released earlier this year showed the school resource officer, Deputy Scot Peterson, taking cover next to a building. He retired from the agency when he was informed that he was under investigation for his action — or inaction — that day.
The newly released footage shows approximately 10 more minutes from the camera angle that confirms Peterson did not enter the building during the shooting and immediate aftermath. Not all of his movements are captured in the video that has been made public so far. Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, the former mayor of Parkland, said he had not yet viewed the footage but hopes the community will get full answers soon: “I want all the information to come out as quickly and thoroughly as possible so that everyone can make informed decisions moving forward. I believe in full transparency and complete information — anything besides that is a disservice to the community.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the direction of Gov. Rick Scott, is investigating the law enforcement response to the shooting. A separate state commission, set up by Scott and the Legislature, is reviewing how the entire case was handled.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has declined to comment on the details of the incident in recent months, saying that he’s awaiting FDLE’s findings. He previously said that his agency was investigating statements from Coral Springs officers who said that some deputies did not promptly enter the building.
“The independent and impartial investigations being conducted by FDLE and the MSD Public Safety Commission will provide a factual account of the response from law enforcement that day,” according to an emailed statement released Wednesday by the Sheriff’s Office.
Court delays release of new Parkland school shooting security video
Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey R. Levenson authorized the release of the footage in April, a decision that was upheld by the 4th District Court of Appeal last month.
“It’s a sad commentary on our times that there must be a full and open public discussion about the type of security system that is appropriate for a large public high school and the appropriate law enforcement response to an active shooter on a high school campus,” Judge Robert Gross wrote in the opinion.
“Parents have such a high stake in the ultimate decisions that they must have access to camera video footage here at issue,” he added, “and not blindly rely on school board experts to make decisions for them.”
The Broward School Board, concerned that the video’s release would expose weak spots in surveillance systems at several high schools, appealed to the Supreme Court.
The board was joined by the Broward State Attorney’s Office, which argued that the video should remain secret because it is part of an “active criminal investigation,” making it exempt from Florida’s public records laws. The Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction Wednesday and indicated “no motion for a rehearing will be entertained.” Sun Sentinel Attorney Dana McElroy said the decision “reaffirms our state’s historically strong commitment to open government and transparency, which was recognized by the courts at all levels in this case.”
The news organizations had argued that the public is entitled to the video to adequately review the law enforcement response to the shooting as it unfolded and for some time afterward. In previous hearings, attorneys representing the Sheriff’s Office said they did not object to releasing the video but would do so only under court order.