Armed SRO Stayed Outside

It’s breaking news that the Stoneman Douglas high school had a School Resource Officer who stayed outside and failed to act. It’s easy to armchair quarterback this kind of thing in retrospect, but here’s the deal: no one has any idea how they are going to react when bullets start flying. Trained soldiers and cops are not immune to freezing up under fire. If people are going to argue that this shows armed intervention is a fool’s errand than we should disarm the police and military too. The only way you will find out for sure how you will act when people start shooting bullets at you is to have bullets shot at you. Training helps. That’s why I believe armed individuals make the choice to carry in schools with an intent to protect children should receive active shooter training, and whatever else is useful above and beyond what an average owner with a carry permit typically receives. I’d also note this country has a pool of veterans, many of them retired and with free time, who already know how they react when people are shooting bullets at them. They might be a useful part of the solution too.

So I’m not going to blame this school officer. I don’t like the odds of facing a rifle wielding maniac armed with a pistol and soft body armor either. I’d like to think I wouldn’t freeze up, regardless, and I’d give myself good odds on landing hits. But I don’t know. I’ve never been shot at, and neither have most police officers, even those with long careers. So I’m inclined to cut this guy a break. He decided to resign. That is the right thing. You know now that you’re not cut out for this line of work. I’d hate to have to live with what he’s going to have to live with, but he won’t be the first nor last.

UPDATE: I know this post is a bit controversial. Bitter is discovering some more information about the SRO that would indicate, yeah, sorry dude, I’m willing to judge. What I don’t like to do is beat my chest and declare “I could do better!” I’d like to think I could, but I’ve never had to face down an active shooter.

UPDATE: One deputy freezing up is something that can happen. Four of them freezing up is a systemic problem with the department.

56 thoughts on “Armed SRO Stayed Outside”

  1. I agree with what you said of not being sure how you’ll react … but he was tested and he failed. When Columbine happened the police officer on site exchanged some rounds with the murderers as they entered the building, but then he backed off and waited for backup. Because the theory was it was more likely a hostage situation, so secure the building and bring in the negotiator.

    The officers gathered outside with their vests and rifles while teenagers were killed. All of them suffered because of that after that fact. But it was the first time and no sane person could have figured what was happening.

    But now we know. Respond and engage. These kinds of shooters have a low pain threshold and no appetite for a fight.

    This is another reason why volunteer parents, either with military experience or training or both, would be of assistance. We know the school, we’re personally invested in our kids and their friends (whom we also know) and several million years of instinct to protect our children will overcome fear of gunfire (at least in most of us).

    An unarmed football coach fought to protect teenagers. So did teenager ROTC students. But this guy, with training and arms, did not. He does deserve some blame.

    To me it’s why we need more people, not less, and people invested in the students and the school. Like parents/teachers/staff.

  2. The fact that you might not rush to danger under fire is irrelevant. You don’t have an obligation to. He cashes the paychecks for protecting the people of his community. He wears a uniform and takes up arms under the banner of the state. In every way that matters, he is a soldier. If he were in the military he would be subject to court-martial and execution. He failed to do his duty and is a goddamned coward.

    1. Mike, this interpretation is not in line with SCOTUS precedent on the roles and responsibilities of police. They are free to stand back and watch you murdered in front of them. IANAL, but I’ve been told your family would not be able to sue them for doing so.

      Yes, this individual was in one of the best positions to minimize the damage in this incident and failed to do so. That being said, “protecting the people of his community” is not exactly what police are usually considered responsible for in the US.

      1. Protecting the people of the community is exactly what the police are understood to be responsible for. At least that’s what we hear every time they ask for a tax increase or scream about a tax cut. Because of those morally bankrupt rulings, the police get a free pass whenever it comes time to deliver on what we are paying them for.

        It is incidents like this that make me entertain the idea that police should be subject to UCMJ just like any other uniformed soldier.

      2. You are misquoting the decision. SCOTUS held that the police do not owe a duty to any particular individual, but have a duty to act with respect to the public at large. This coward did not perform that duty.

      3. Warren v. D.C.
        Gonzalez v. Castle Rock

        Tese are controlling cases with whic I am familiar. There may be others. Bottom line: the families of the victims, if they chose tp sie, will probably have their cases dismissed.

        1. Exactly, but that doesn’t mean that the officer should escape prosecution for failing to carry out his duties.

          1. Bingo, they may not be legally required to help, but morally they are.

  3. The police response issues go well beyond the SRO staying outside:

    They were looking for the shooter inside the building well after he was gone elsewhere and drinking a soda he bought after the incident. Sickeningly, they’re saying “”The delay never put us in a situation where any kids’ lives were in danger, any teachers lives were in danger,” Pustizzi said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.” As if having an armed murderer wandering the streets while the police are bunched up elsewhere puts no one else at risk.

  4. It is galling that it feels like law enforcement screwed up on multiple levels, From the FBI to the repeated calls, to this.

    And it’s us proles who take it in the shorts.

    Well, it’s why we have to keep at the grindstone.

  5. He didn’t quit: he RETIRED. That means that he stood by while children were being murdered yards away. The killer was being faced down by unarmed JROTC kids and football coaches while he stood there. Now he gets a paycheck for the rest of his life for NOT dong his job.

    It is BS to give this guy a pass. I spent an entire career running into burning buildings as a firemedic. Imagine if, when an orphanage filled with children was burning down, the firefighters stood by without helping, and then retired to collect a pension while the funerals were still being held.

    He is a coward, and he had a legal obligation to act. Yes, the courts have held that the police have no specific duty with regard to any particular person, but they still have a duty to the public at large. He failed to perform that duty and should be charged.

    1. I think he’ll be judged. What I don’t want to do is beat my chest and say I’d do better. My father spent his youth running into burning buildings, and my grandfather and great-grandfather fought in WWII and WWI respectively. And while I’ve found my two life-threatening encounters thrilling (neither which involved bullets), I can’t argue for sure I would do better. I’ve never had anyone shooting at me.

    2. I think this in am important detail which makes this feel like a bigger punch in the gut. At the very least, I would hope that there’s an option in Florida for him to be demoted after the fact and at least have to accept a reduced retirement on that demotion. However, I know that’s overly optimistic. And it does feel unbelievably wrong that this guy literally faces no consequences other than if he decides he feels bad about it later. But I am not sure I’m as generous as Sebastian in assuming he will feel bad. I saw a text thread from a FL-based reporter with a source inside the BSO who said that they were initially told by the department that he couldn’t hear it going on, and now they know he could and did. It appears he was perfectly happy to keep pulling down a paycheck when either he or the sheriff was lying. He just doesn’t like it that he was going to be held accountable without pay.

      BTW – I also noticed in one story that two other deputies have been put on restricted duty for indications of possible failure to act for specific incidents at the shooter’s house. I don’t think it’s unrelated that the Speaker of the House down there leaked that his “gun reform package” is going to center on a “fact-finding committee” with subpoena powers led by a parent of a victim. I suspect he knows they will find many problems.

    3. I just caught the Miami Herald full report. Yeah, this guy needs to lose much more. This specific officer was told 2 years prior that Cruz planned to shoot up the school and they had evidence of at least his access to knives and BB guns. He chose not to do anything at all with the report. The school counselor reported directly to the officer that he knew Cruz was at the very least a danger to himself and that he was saying he wanted to buy a gun during their encounters related to him doing dangerous things. That at least triggered a threat assessment because of the counselor’s actions, but nothing more.

      I wonder if the guy did freeze because he was thinking, “You know, I bet it’s that kid that everyone was telling me would shoot up the school and I never acted upon their reports… Maybe no one will notice. And if they do…do the math…yup, full retirement coming my way!”

      1. As a retired Florida responder, here is the fact: The only way for him to lose his pension is to be convicted of a crime. It won’t be cut, because it is based on your highest 36 consecutive months of pay out of the last 60 months.

      2. I agree with pretty much all of the above, but …

        “Access to knives”?

        Anyone not in a prison or mental institution “has access to knives”.

        (Or, in most states, BB guns – over 16 or certainly over 18, definitely.)

        Even Britons have access to knives, still!

        Of course he has access to knives, or BB guns. Also gasoline, road flares, and dozens of other things someone could use to do bad stuff, none of which is especially regulated, protected, unusual, or hard to get.

        It’s damn near only guns and explosives that are remotely hard to get, in the “hurts other people if used to do so” world.

        The mere fact of access to knives has no real bearing on threats to shoot up the school; direct access to firearms has a bearing on that, and basically nothing else does.

        1. Yes, I know that people have access to knives in a practical sense, but the implication of the report was that he didn’t seem to be pulling them out of the kitchen knife block. From the reports, it was known that he had easy access to all sorts of stuff you don’t give a child with severe emotional problems who is prone to violent outbursts against himself and others. When you couple that type of access to a variety of known weapons with his documented history of physical violence and threats, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to include it as part of a general threat assessment. It surely plays a roll in determining that this kid was considered too dangerous to be allowed a backpack. Access to knives doesn’t mean someone is going to shoot up a school, but knowing there’s a family who gives their unstable child prone to violence access to various levels of potentially dangerous items is relevant information to know. I don’t care if you have access to a knife – even a giant sharp one. But I am going to be more concerned about even a steak knife in the hands of a violent person known to draw guns on people.

  6. “He decided to resign.”

    You have to have the right “mindset” when you take on a job of protecting vulnerable children in school.

    And that is the “mindset” of a ship captain that either saves the ship, crew & cargo — OR ELSE GOES DOWN WITH THE SHIP TRYING.

    The type of people MOST likely to have that kind of attitude at schools are the teachers, staff and parents — it’s long overdue that we give them the training and tools do so effectively.

    1. Exactly so. School teachers and staff have repeatedly demonstrated heroism up to the suicidal level. Teachers here and elsewhere have taken bullets for students. The custodians at Columbine made repeated trips into the building to get students out. An AP in FL walked up to a shooter and snatched his gun (3 hours before his retirement). It is definitely time to give them the tools and training to make their heroism effective.

  7. Police department training is an issue here. The active shooter protocol says go to the sound of the guns and take out the shooter ASAP. The training officer for a major metro department told me ” Yeah, it is dangerous but we are the cops and it is our job.” Apparently, Broward didn’t get the message.

  8. Also we should not overlook that the Sheriff throwing this deputy under the buss is the same man who was waving the red shirt and blaming the NRA.

    Most notably in last night’s “TownHall” on CNN, where he took umbrage that his department had any blame.

    And less than 24 hours later…

    1. I think it’s quite unfair to say he’s throwing the deputies under the bus. The newest information shows that there were quite a few people in his department willing to blatantly ignore direct warnings of a school shooting by this guy in order to pass the buck. Calling their refusal to do their jobs out isn’t throwing them under the bus.

      That said, I also believe that since this is clearly a department-wide failure to follow any sort of protocol at all, that his career needs to end now, too. When it’s multiple officers over multiple types calls during many types of reports failing to act – that’s all on the head honcho himself.

      But I don’t think that calling out the underlings is bad, either. With so many of these incidents where the reason either the killers had access to firearms or weren’t already in jail or the looney bin, it’s often come down to someone deciding not to do their job. And those people remain in their roles to do the same thing over again. Look at the dude in Hawaii. He had multiple instances of epic failures that were just caught in time and never removed from access from machines where he could send out a false alert. Even when he really in truly screwed up, they still did everything they could to keep him on staff.

      1. Apologies, I was wrong in what I said.

        I think the calling out is right and the deputy is in the wrong.

        That said, I get the feeling that the Sheriff may be looking for a scapegoat.

        Given, as you said there are clearly department wide failures /and/ the man could be using, in part, his gun control push as a form of deflection, as I agree with you his career should be over, and I sense he may know that and is looking for some measure of cover.

        Last night at the CNN townhall he was utterly unwilling to say his department had any blame. But today he’s now calling out underlings for wrongdoing?

        1. No need to apologize, it seems to just get worse at with every news conference and release. I didn’t even get to the bottom of the Herald article for a while because I needed to step away from each layer of insanity. I’m not sure it will be possible to keep up with all the names and times this kid put up a red flag by the end of the investigations.

      2. Top to bottom, there’s plenty of evidence that the department is incompetent. The Sherrif needs to go and staff need to be evaluated across the board.

  9. I’m judging. I am absolutely judging. Yeah, we don’t know how we’re going to react in these situations… but this guy is a cop. He should be trained better. We have decades of information telling us that the fastest way to stop this thing is with armed response and that in most cases the perp will off themselves rather than fighting back. Yet this guy left kids to sacrifice their lives trying to save other kids.

  10. This is especially sad because the very essence of a SRO is to establish a relationship with the students well enough that you can proactively prevent problems from occurring. I mean it’s pretty much one of the last vestiges of true community policing, something which has been going away over the last several decades. Clearly this officer didn’t feel enough of an emotional connection with the students to even try to respond.

    My father is retired NYPD and has been shot at a couple times in his career. I’ve heard the stories but he always told them matter-of-fact, I now realize I never actually asked him “What did it feel like to be shot at?”. I was in the military myself but never saw combat, the most adrenaline-inducing episode I’ve been in was a bad car accident doing something stupid. I’d like to think if I ever faced anything while I was in I would have responded how I should have. But I can imagine so much gets thrown out the window in these situations.

  11. “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

    I did a bunch of research and the BL is that Florida’s supreme court has ruled that the cops have no liability if they don’t get involved.

    There is a vague FL statute that says a duty of sheriffs is to suppress “tumults” but deputies in Broward County are specifically exempt from the statute. Instead they are bound to whatever their CBA requires.

    So this dude literally has no legal obligations that would incur liability unless someone can prove he acted with reckless disregard or wanton disregard for human life. He could be fired for breach of the CBA but that’s it.

    His agency is also likely liability-free.

    Even if there is a judgement against the agency, its capped at $200K.

    There’s no accountability measure for sucking at your job if you’re a sheriff in FL other than the ballot box, so hopefully the voters of Broward county toss Sheriff Israel out ASAPly.

    There is a professional obligation in FL to protect innocent life. I’m sure this guy and his agency will get right on that.

    So… wait for 911. The cops will be with you when its time to chalk out the bodies. :-

  12. Don’t just blame the Broward County Sheriff. The school district has plenty of blood on its hands too. This is the same school district that ignored, hid, and covered up crimes committed by Trayvon Martin. The cover up is standard procedure and policy to make an equality of outcomes for minority students in the MD Schols. They finally suspended him temporarily, and his Mother sent him to live with his Father in Orlando. A few days later he tried to beat up George Zimmerman in the rain on a Sunday night.

    The Conservative Treehouse has a lot of actual school district documentation on these policies from five years ago.

    1. I have seen a story on Reason talking about how three more police officers showed up, pulled out their pistols, and then took cover behind their car.

      So it’s not just this officer, but it seems to be the entire department.

      Indeed, one of the commenters talked about surveillance video on a 30-minute delay, how the police decided to reduce arrests by refusing to arrest for certain misdemeanors, and then later, to look the other way when students were assaulted, and other things. But, hey, arrests were down, so it’s all good, right?

      Sheesh. These are the guys (both police and schools) we’re supposed to trust our kids to!

  13. I believe that the SRO would have returned fire if his life were in danger, but he chose to stay out of the fight instead. It was pure cowardice on his part to not do his job, and let those children die.
    The only one you can count on to save your life when you’re being shot at is yourself.
    Those who say, “Only the police should have guns”, are wrong, as this incident proves.

  14. Law enforcement wants desperately to maintain an absolute exclusive control over the use of force, and myth of protection. It was stated above in the comments;

    “Protecting the people of the community is exactly what the police are understood to be responsible for.”

    that is a complete and total myth. The department motto on the cars means absolutely nothing. The role of police is to arrest criminals and imprison them, pending judgement. It has morphed over the year to include a heavy dose of writing traffic citations, and then arrest people after committing crimes. There is no element of protection included within the job description or oath taken.

    That does not stop their professional organizations and unions from perpetuating the myth that they protect society. Let’s ask some black motorists who the police protect. Or maybe we could ask a Branch Davidian, or Randy Weaver. Still, most people can’t accept or conceive of the principle that their preferred myth that the police will protect them is false.

    It’s this complete misunderstanding on our part that perpetuates the entire premise of gun free zones and the myth that they are some magic talisman that “protects people”. Undercutting the police will protect you myth undercuts gun free zones and the ability to grow them, so the media will want to keep this story down as best they can, and so will legislators and law enforcement.

  15. In the early 1960’s,I and lots of others were trained, in several different exercises, with live fire aimed in our direction, specifically to educate us to react appropriately in actual shooting situations. Over the years since, that training has paid off handsomely in that most of us are still here and the shooters aren’t.

    Could we not do something similar for our police? Perhaps as a sorting function in an academy setting?

  16. I’m seeing way, way too many folks say “See!! We told you guns in schools / good guys with guns don’t work”


    1. way too many people are dumber than a bag of hammers. one person being a worthless sack doesn’t equate to everyone…

    2. It’s illustrative that they consider the deputy in question a “good guy”.

      Also once again the screw up of a government agent is being used to punish the rest of us.

      1. Indeed. Their reasoning seems to be “police officers didn’t defend these kids’ lives, so civilians shouldn’t be armed.”

        Yet, when something like this occurs, we’re supposed to wait for the police to come save the day!

    3. No kidding. It’s seems the default talking point the anti-gunners are bringing out in response to this news (and completely illogical too as Sebastian pointed out).

      Of course this whole catastrophe just demonstrates the folly of restricting our rights, the folly of compelling us to only rely upon the police for protection, seeing as the police have neither the legal duty nor necessarily the will to protect us.

      It’s the damned 1992 L.A. riots all over again.

  17. As long as the Sheriff finds it rightful to continue to blame the NRA and someone else (ANYONE ELSE but him and his officers) for not doing the job of investigating and/or following up on a procedure that could rightfully entail taking a lunatic’s guns away, he should not escape blameless.

    After what I am reading about his performance and his remarks egging parents on at the Town Hall, he needs to go down. He has exceeded his moral and possibly legal authority as a public servant. And, yeah, if we’re talking about turning 18-21 gun owners into felons, we need to “have a conversation” turning the sheriff and his rag tag team of idiots out into the streets.

  18. And now, if I’m managing to keep up, it turns out this particular office had 4 total deputies just decide to hang out outside at some point during the event while officers from the local PD went in, clear the spaces, and tended to the wounded.

    Entire house, cleaned right now. Of course, reading all about his hiring practices, practically the whole department comes from his political campaign staff now. He converts political supporters into “community outreach staff” whose job it is to visit organization meetings to tell of what a great guy the Sheriff is and how wonderful it would be to have more community support for his re-election office.

    1. Ben Shapiro is so steamed about all this, that even in the heart of deepest darkest Commiefornia he is talking about buying an AR-15 himself!

      (of course that is an impractical choice now in Commiefornia, and he would probably be better off buying the new Ruger PCC, which can use a magazine adapter for his own pistol)


    “When Coral Springs police officers arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14 in the midst of the school shooting crisis, many officers were surprised to find not only that Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but that three other Broward County Sheriff’s deputies were also outside the school and had not entered, Coral Springs sources tell CNN. The deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles, the sources said, and not one of them had gone into the school.”

    Nobody at Broward County will be held liable in any legally meaningful sense. It looks like the Sheriff can be removed by the governor only for felony misconduct. So unless the voters disapprove of this then nothing will change.

    The families of the victims get to pay the pension for the SRO and the salaries for the officers. #ONLYONES #TOPMEN

    Too bad there weren’t any good guys with guns. I don’t think dudes who behave in a grossly unethical manner are “good guys.”

    1. We need to update the old saying,

      When seconds matter the police are only minutes away…even when they are already there!

  20. While not excusing his inaction, it occurs to me that this was deputy working for a liberal sheriff in a liberal run county as a SRO in a liberal run school district. How much was aggressive law enforcement deincentivized? How much time spent on “respect their feels” training and how much on “put the front sight on center mass and get to work” training? The guy was working in district that knew the kid was a psycho and didn’t care. I think they got exactly the response the culture they created would dictate.

    But of course… it’s the NRA’s fault.

  21. And it turns out that the school board and the sheriff’s office were apparently working in concert to down play any criminal acts committed in the broward schools by members of the protected species in order to score more fed money.
    Just another typical day in a democrap run fiefdom

  22. Should AG Sessions and the DOJ send a team to “oversee” the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the same way they “oversaw” Chicago PD under Holder?

  23. Evidently the city police who showed up as mutual aid have strong opinions about the four useless sheriff’s deputies and haven’t been shy about saying so.

  24. The reluctance to risk life in such a situation is an understandable but sad reaction. Anyone inside would have had a choice: return fire, or die. Hence the need to allow teachers to be armed.

  25. Sebastian, I have to disagree with you. There is a huge difference in a civilian being suddenly thrust into a life or death situation, and someone who has been trained and in fact being paid to act.
    I am a Professional FF in PA, with 28 years on the job. I have never failed to act no matter what the situation was. It is my job. There have been times where I was scared, but my sense of duty and honor are stronger.
    Think of 9/11. I know many FF that went into the Towers that day. All of them were scared. Yet hundreds of them ran into the Towers and up the stairs. Because it was their job, and lives were at stake.

    1. When I made this post, we only knew about the SRO. As more details have come out, I don’t think this was a case of someone frozen to inaction by fear.

  26. At my local church, our county sheriff and deputies did an Active Shooter Response training class about 2 months ago. About 400 people showed up, probably would be more now!

    Anyway, considering this SRO is retiring, I suspect he has been an officer for a long time. Our sheriff gave the history of LEO’s response procedures. Years ago, when this SRO was trained, it was a “hold up and wait” for other officers to arrive and then infiltrate the shooting area as a group. Recent years it was changed to 3 officers, then GO, then 2 and now, the current procedure is, first officer there, GO! Now matter if a LEO has assistance, even when alone, GO! I wonder if the SRO was still in the old time mindset. If so, not only he, do I blame, but his leadership for not training and enforcing the new “One and GO” philosophy. Any LEO’s concur with the history of the philosophy?

    1. In addition: I can understand that old training and indoctrination could have played a part, but reflecting on myself personally, “protect and serve” it seems would have overridden any BS training or leadership/political preferences to how things are expected to be done. Even just old nature curiosity would have made some people enter and see WTF was going on.

      It does anger me that the SRO didn’t enter, and his cohorts that showed up as well didn’t. Geez man, you’re an LEO, you know the risks and you signed the dotted line to throw your life in the mix to save others. I took the oath over 28 years ago and still feel it is my obligation to protect, and I’m just a military guy, not a sworn officer. I donno, it easy to Monday morning quarterback.

  27. Arm the teachers (allow them to be armed),

    and, disarm the police.

    I’m serious.

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