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Fla. Gov. Orders Investigation Into Police Response To School Shooting

Feb 26, 2018
Originally published on March 12, 2018 10:58 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Florida's governor has ordered an investigation into the police response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 17 people died. Many state lawmakers want the governor to suspend the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Last week, Sheriff Israel revealed that the deputy on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas never entered the building where the shooting took place. The deputy resigned. The sheriff also released a log of 23 calls his office had about Nikolas Cruz, including a couple in which he was identified as a potential school shooter. NPR's Greg Allen has been covering all this. He joins us from Miami. Hi there, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Does the sheriff agree that his office missed a lot of red flags?

ALLEN: You know, I haven't heard him say that exactly like that. I mean, what he says is that of those 23 calls, there were two calls that there are concerns about, and they're conducting an internal investigation. And so they have those officers who made those calls on restricted duty right now. So he's withholding comment on those two. Those are the two that I think most of us would say that there were red flags, that he was identified as a potential shooter. So we'll see on that. But he's not really taking responsibility. He says he only takes responsibility for things he knows about. And, you know, he says the officers who handled those calls apparently did it right - all the other calls, did them right. Just those two that they're looking at. But he was strongly critical of that school resource officer, the one who waited outside the building when the shootings were going on, the one who resigned. Israel was on CNN yesterday, where he defended both himself and his department. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCOTT ISRAEL: At this point, one person didn't do what he should have done. It's horrific. The victims here, the families, I pray for them every night. It makes me sick to my stomach that we have a deputy didn't go in 'cause I know if I was there, if I was on that wall, I would've been the first in.

INSKEEP: OK. So he says the deputy made a mistake. The sheriff himself does not admit to mistakes there. What are people around the school and the community saying?

ALLEN: Well, I've talked to several yesterday at the school, and I'll talk about that in a moment. But at the school, let me tell you about that first. It was an orientation day, and so this was the first time for many of these students to come back to the school, and really the first time for any of the students or the parents to walk in since the day of the shooting, you know, February 14. Outside, there's this extensive memorial all around the school grounds. You know, 17 crosses with mounds of flowers in front, banners from all around the country. We saw some tears, some trepidation. Students weren't - many weren't ready to go back in, but they did. A lot of hugs. This was mostly a chance for students to come back and, you know, pick up things they'd left behind that day, like backpacks and phones. I talked to Mike Glass (ph), a father there who was there with his freshman son. He said it was important for them to come back for another reason, as well.

MIKE GLASS: Just to be able to step back into the school and know that, yeah, what happened on the 14th happened, but now it's time to really get back together and start the healing process.

INSKEEP: I was listening to you say, Greg, many of them weren't ready to go back. I mean, when would you ever be? And yet, there they are, getting ready to do it.

ALLEN: Right. I mean, you know, it's interesting because some kids were really concerned. Others were, like, kind of matter-of-fact, telling me that they're concerned about falling behind. I heard from a freshman who's worried about falling behind.

INSKEEP: They want to get back to school, back to their studies. OK.

ALLEN: Right. Exactly. You know? But everybody told me over and over again that it's really going to be some weeks before they really get back to learning again. I had an interesting conversation with a junior, Macie Chapman (ph), and her mother, Heather (ph). Macie says she thought it was too soon to come back. She said other people just don't understand the way that they feel if you were there that day. I asked them about the criticism of the sheriff's department and Sheriff Scott Israel, the response that they were getting over the response and the red flags that were missed. Here's what Heather and Macie Chapman had to say about that.

HEATHER CHAPMAN: I have so many friends that are police officers, and they are such heroes to me. I...

MACIE CHAPMAN: Yeah. I have mixed feelings.

H. CHAPMAN: ...Sort of want to take a step back then say, OK, maybe there's more to the story that we don't know.

M. CHAPMAN: Exactly. And they were the first ones here. So yeah, there's a lot of controversy over, like, how many times he was reported and stuff. But honestly, they saved our lives, and a lot of people don't realize that.

ALLEN: I heard similar things from many other students and parents I talked to yesterday. They want answers, but at this point they're not willing to lay the blame on law enforcement. Some of the students have expressed concern that this is distracting from their efforts to get tighter gun laws in Florida. So it's an interesting political side to that, but, we'll see. The Broward sheriff says he welcomes the outside review, and then they'll go forward.

INSKEEP: Greg, I just want to underline something that we heard there from Macie Chapman, a junior. Because it's something that not everybody does at this moment. Even though she was a survivor of this horrific experience, she's saying, I want to wait for evidence before I cast blame, I actually want to get all the facts.

ALLEN: Yeah. And I heard that from other folks, as well, that people say, you know, let's remember that this was not the police who caused this. This was done by a shooter with a very high-powered weapon.

INSKEEP: Greg, thanks very much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Allen is in Miami.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this report, we say that 17 crosses were placed at a memorial for those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In fact, the memorials also included Stars of David in memory of the Jewish victims.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.