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Students flee after shooter opens fire on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Parkland tragedy made worse by school district and sheriff's police failures

The South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation concludes that officials were unprepared for the Feb. 14 shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and made a number of mistakes in their response to the emergency.

Failures by the sheriff’s office and school district in Broward County, Fla., cost children their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a report by the South Florida Sun Sentinel asserts.

The newspaper report says that a series of blunders, bad policies, sketchy training and poor leadership enabled a gunman to shoot 17 people to death at the high school on Feb. 14, 2018. The attack at the campus lasted 58 minutes and the Sun Sentinel's investigation concludes that it was marked by no one taking charge, deputies dawdling, false information spreading, communications paralyzed and children stranded with nowhere to hide.

Although a number of teachers and police officers performed heroically, an examination of the day’s events reveals that the Sheriff’s Office and Broward County Public Schools were unprepared to respond to the crisis.

Nicolas Cruz, a former student at Stoneman Douglas High, is being held in jail and has been charged with 17 counts of murder. He came to the school afternoon of Feb. 14 and allegedly opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle that killed 17 and wounded a dozen more.

The Sun Sentinel reports that on the day of the shooting, school district policies were insufficient and employees were uncertain who could order that the campus be locked down.

The district failed to require that classrooms have designated “hard corners” — areas where students could hide outside the line of sight of a gunman looking through a doorway.

Two security experts had advised the school to designate these safe spaces, but only two teachers had done so in the building where the shooting attack occurred. Most classroom corners that could have provided refuge were instead blocked by teachers' desks and other furniture.

The failures to lock down the campus became catastrophic when the shooting set off a fire alarm. Instead of hiding in their classrooms, as they would have in lockdown, some students and teachers leave their classrooms into hallways, as they would if facing a fire.

The Sheriff’s Office failed to immediately set up a command post, which left deputies confused about who was in charge.

Authorities begin looking at surveillance video from the scene, but deputies don’t realize the footage is delayed 20 minutes. Officers relay information about Cruz's whereabouts to their colleagues and to school officials, but because they thought the video they were looking at was live, they continue searching for Cruz in the building — delaying aid to injured students.

The newspaper based its report on interviews, witness statements to investigators, police reports, body camera footage, 911 recordings, police radio transmissions and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

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