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Video delays misled police at Fla. school shooting

The Broward School District’s security cameras did not provide real-time video for police


By Lisa J. Huriash, Stephen Hobbs and Megan O'Matz
Sun Sentinel

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. — Nearly a half-hour after Nikolas Cruz dropped his rifle and fled Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, police thought they were seeing him live on security cameras, still in the building. They were actually seeing images tape-delayed.

The Broward School District’s security cameras did not provide real-time video for police, complicating their efforts to track and pin down the shooter, the South Florida Sun Sentinel has learned.

People attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
People attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“He went from the third floor to the second floor ... They’re monitoring him on camera,” an officer said on radio transmissions recorded by Broadcastify, an audio streaming website, at 2:54 p.m. In fact, Cruz was already long gone — he had escaped the school’s freshman building 26 minutes earlier, a timeline released by the Broward Sheriff’s Office shows.

The video images were “delayed 20 minutes and nobody told us that,” said Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi.

Pustizzi said the video delay made a chaotic situation more confusing, but he does not believe it delayed efforts to rescue injured students. “We got in so fast, we’re pulling them out. It made it harder to identify where the guy was.”

According to the sheriff’s office, Cruz began shooting into classrooms at about 2:21 p.m. and left the building seven minutes later. Authorities eventually captured him more than an hour after he left the school.

Fourteen students and three educators died in the Valentine’s Day killings. Cruz, a troubled former student of Stoneman Douglas, confessed and could face the death penalty.

Police radio transmissions reviewed by the Sun Sentinel reveal more details about the confusion at the scene as officers tried to determine what was happening and how best to respond to the worst school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012.

They show:

-- At the same time the shooter escaped, police were saying they were entering a building, though it’s unclear from radio transmissions whether it was the right building or a neighboring one.

-- Police initially could not get to the security cameras and couldn’t immediately find someone to help them.

-- Police communication was hampered by outmoded radios that left some transmissions inaudible.

The school is in Parkland, which is protected by the sheriff’s office. Also, an armed sheriff’s deputy — called a school resource officer — is assigned to the school.

At one point, police were looking for that officer, Scot Peterson, because he “would be the one to have access to where the cameras are,” according to the police radio broadcast.

Peterson was on the 45-acre campus during the attack but not in the targeted building, Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie previously told the Sun Sentinel.

“We need somebody with the camera systems ASAP,” an officer stated at 2:43 p.m., about 15 minutes after the shooting stopped, according to the sheriff’s timeline. “Where’s the principal? Who’s with the principal? And we need to start making a plan here.”

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said at a press conference Wednesday that he did not know anything about delays in school security video but said he would look into it.

His agency, earlier in the day, notified media that the sheriff’s timeline — released on Feb.15, the day after the shooting — is approximate and may change as an official review is conducted.

Asked whether police went into the school immediately, the sheriff said “that’s exactly what we’re examining.”

©2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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