Apr 14, 2018, 3:44 PM ET

Newly released accounts of Parkland shooting relate chaos and confusion

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New documents released Friday paint the clearest picture to date of the chaos and confusion officers experienced in the early moments of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

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PHOTO: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 28, 2018.
SLIDESHOW: Heartbreaking photos from the Parkland school shooting

The incident report includes 11 officers’ accounts of their responses in the first few minutes after School Resource Officer Scott Peterson screamed “Shots fired!” over the radio.

Despite being the first to report the gunfire, Peterson was accused of failing to enter the school building after hearing those initial shots. He claimed to have thought they were coming from outside the building.

In February, President Trump said that the officer “did a poor job," adding that he either “didn’t react properly” or was a “coward." Peterson was suspended by the sheriff’s office in the weeks following the shooting. He resigned soon after amid public scorn.

PHOTO: Then-Broward County Sheriffs Deputy Scot Peterson, assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting, is seen in an image captured from the school surveillance video released by Broward County Sheriffs Office.Broward County Sheriffs Office via Reuters
Then-Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson, assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting, is seen in an image captured from the school surveillance video released by Broward County Sheriff's Office.

In one account released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, an officer said he headed towards a nearby Walmart following a dispatch that suggested the shooter was moving in a “westward” direction. Shortly after arriving, he learned the suspect was possibly already in custody.

“I then stayed at my new location … where I prevented any non-law enforcement traffic from entering the area of the school and assisted in directing traffic,” the officer said.

PHOTO: New surveillance video released reveals the moments that followed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a gunman started opening fire at the Parkland, Fla., campus.Obtained by ABC
New surveillance video released reveals the moments that followed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a gunman started opening fire at the Parkland, Fla., campus.

Armed with an AR-15 style rifle, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, prosecutors say. Seventeen others were injured.

As the situation developed, another officer said, he did not inform his fellow officers that he would be responding to the scene due to “heavy radio transmissions” following the first mention of an active shooter. Instead, he arrived at the school and entered the building, possibly contributing to some of the uncertainty regarding the number of officers in the school and where they had entered the building.

PHOTO: Nikolas Cruz is escorted into the courtroom for his arraignment at the Broward County Courthouse March 14, 2018 in in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.my Beth Bennett/Pool via Getty Images
Nikolas Cruz is escorted into the courtroom for his arraignment at the Broward County Courthouse March 14, 2018 in in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I attempted to enter building 12 from the west but was confronted by several law enforcement officers who had entered from the east end of the building,” said one officer. “To mitigate a crossfire situation, I exited the building and continued to hold cover to the south while the other deputies and officers worked to clear the building and treat the injured.”

PHOTO: This Feb. 18, 2015 image taken from video provided by Broward County Public Schools shows school resource officer Scot Peterson during a school board meeting of Broward County, Fla.Broward County Public Schools via AP
This Feb. 18, 2015 image taken from video provided by Broward County Public Schools shows school resource officer Scot Peterson during a school board meeting of Broward County, Fla.

Two officers both reported having accidentally switched off their body cameras in their rush to confront a suspect. They turned them back on later when they realized what had happened. One of them said that had happened several times.

PHOTO: Students are evacuated by police out of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images
Students are evacuated by police out of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

“It should be noted that my BWC (body camera) was activated but was turned off accidentally by the on and off button being hit by possibly the rifle sling. Upon noticing it was off I immediately turned it back on,” the officer said.

PHOTO: New surveillance video released reveals the moments that followed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a gunman started opening fire at the Parkland, Fla., campus.Obtained by ABC
New surveillance video released reveals the moments that followed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a gunman started opening fire at the Parkland, Fla., campus.

“This occurred more than once,” he added.

Earlier reports of the shooting also indicate confusion about which building the shootings were occurring in and where the assault rifle was left in its aftermath.

News - Newly released accounts of Parkland shooting relate chaos and confusion

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  • Fein Whine

    I'm so happy to see that this story isn't going away. If you can't be part of a solution there is always fuel for an agenda by avoiding the problem.

  • AndWhoReallyCares?

    Officer and communication confusion aside, the testimony documents the school had a lack of building security. I recall reading that attempts have been made to remediate that security gap. How are your local schools doing with addressing that challenge?

  • spencer60

    On the police angle, you can;t blame the cops too much for the confusion. It's not like police get much support from their communities these days.

    I'm sure these same parents would have had a fit if the cops did regular walk-throughs of local schools to familiarize themselves with them.

    And if the taxes went up to by good radio equipment you would have heard howls as well.

  • c.g.

    So we have trained professionals who train to act in this type of incident who are confused about where the shooter is and exactly who he is. Yet, we expect teachers who are NOT trained in any way to hunt up a shooter and be able to take him down.

    And we have the chemistry teacher from this HS who is now one of those at this HS who carries a gun and is expected to hunt down any potential shooter. He just "forgot" about his loaded gun and left it at a public bathroom at the beach. And yes, someone got it and shot it off......And this guy is suppose to do better than what the police did?

  • doug harmon

    they belittled this guy in the dirt. and I personally think he was doing what he thought was right and not being a coward. after all, who are we to say, we wasn't there in his shoes.....

  • helico seek

    To be fair, it is hard to determine where the sound of gunfire is coming from. The fact that there were multiple buildings further complicates matters. If the resource officer was running around trying to determine where the gunfire was coming from, that's one thing. If he was cowering in one place, that's another. Keeping order when there are many 911 calls leading to many messages to police is understandably difficult. I don't know what the solution is, but I hope they are looking for one.

  • curly4

    It seems that the department has no SOPs or have not practiced it enough to follow it under pressure. I am inclined more to the "no SOPs" myself.