Deputies heard shots but didn’t enter Stoneman Douglas, records show

A nation’s outrage has been aimed at Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson, who stood armed outside for four minutes, while Nikolas Cruz slaughtered students and staff inside with his AR-15 rifle in the 1200 building of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but recently released radio transmissions and dispatch records show there were several other breakdowns in BSO’s response. 

After sources alleged that three deputies were seen by responding Coral Springs Police Department officers taking cover instead of going into the building to neutralize the threat as policy dictates, Sheriff Scott Israel claimed point-blank during a CNN interview that Peterson was the only deputy present at the school while Cruz actually fired his weapon. But now his own agency’s records clearly contradict that, showing that several deputies were at the school while gunfire continued and that none of them entered the building before the gunfire ceased.  

The records reveal that the first two deputies who responded to the school didn’t go to the 1200 building – where Peterson clearly said the shooting was taking place – but instead first blocked traffic on nearby Holmberg Road. One of those deputies, Edward Eason, isn’t heard again on the radio transmissions released by BSO after saying he was blocking the westbound lanes, so what Eason did for the next three minutes while the shooting took place isn’t known. The other deputy, Michael Kratz, reported on the radio that after he blocked the eastbound lane he went to the football field. 

“I hear shots fired by the football field,” Kratz said on his radio. 

That was at 2:25:08 p.m., two and a half minutes before the shooting stopped. The next several calls from Kratz indicate he remained at or near the football field, a short run from the 1200 building, throughout the shooting:

2:25:42 Kratz: “Some students thought it was firecrackers, but we’re not sure, by the football fields.” 

2:26:34 Kratz: “I got more students running west towards the football field.”

2:27:03  Kratz: “Right by the football field.”

2:27:30 Last shots fired 

14:28:23 Kratz: “I got a victims with gunshot to the right leg .. west end by the football field.” 

For retired Miami-Dade police Sgt. Mike Fisten, who also worked for a short time at BSO under Israel, Kratz’s behavior doesn’t add up.

“You run towards the shots,” said Fisten. “The kids are running one way, you should be running toward the threat.” 

BSO Detective Brian Goolsby also reported hearing gunshots about 30 seconds before the gunfire stopped. 

“We definitely have shots being fired,” Goolsby said. 

During those crucial first four minutes, no deputy is heard saying a word about what they are supposedly trained to do: Go into the building and neutralizing the threat. When the records were released by BSO last week in a controlled media event that excluded national media outlets, Col. Jack Dale, who spoke instead of Israel, admitted the deputies didn’t get to the building in a timely fashion, but he said there was a reason for it.

“The movement toward the shooter in building 12 did not occur,” said Dale. “But it did not occur because there was no information the shooter was in building 12.”

Actually Peterson made it clear in his very first radio transmission that the shooting was coming from building 12, the 1200 building. Then, if deputies missed it the first time, he clearly reiterated it again about 30 seconds later, saying, “We’re talking about the 1200 building, the building off of Holmberg road.”

BSO’s Dale also offered another excuse for the deputies not going into the building. 

“There were people outside,” said Dale, referring to deputies. “They did not go into the 1200 building initially because they were dealing with the possibility of shots being fired on the exterior of the building and into the football field.” 

But no one is heard on the transmissions that have been released to date saying there were shots fired outside the building. The only transmission close is Kratz’s call that he hears shots at the football field, but Kratz also reports that is where students are running for shelter. Fisten said what is missing is a supervisor – a sergeant, lieutenant, or captain – issuing the key order: Go to the threat and neutralize it. 

“If there was mass confusion going on at the scene amongst the arriving BSO units, why did no supervisor take charge?” Fisten asked rhetorically. “Somebody should have got on the air immediately and took over,  unless nobody knew what to do.” 

It wasn’t until eight full minutes into the call  that the first supervisor is heard, BSO’s Parkland commander, Capt. Jan Jordan. 

“I know there’s a lot going on right now,” she begins. “Do we have a perimeter and everybody cleared out of the school?” 

“That’s negative,” says a dispatcher. 

Fisten said talk of a perimeter made no sense at that time, since deputies still believed the shooter was in the building. 

Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell said responding officers from his city found deputies taking cover outside the building when they arrived. 

“I’m not going to criticize any BSO deputy,” said Campbell. “All I can tell you is the actions and police activity was coming from the Coral Springs Police Department … This was the real blood and actions and some people react differently. My guys reacted properly.” 

BSO records show it was a Coral Springs team of officers that first entered the building, assisted by two deputies.  

Despite the radio transmissions and dispatch records, Sheriff Israel has pointed solely at Peterson as the only deputy at fault in the response, claiming publicly he was the only deputy there while the shooting took place. 

“While the killer was on campus, during this horrific killing, there was one deputy, one armed person, within proximity of that school and that was Peterson,” Israel said in a CNN interview 12 days after the shooting. 

“Obviously somebody gave him bad information,” remarked Fisten, after reviewing the records. 

Fisten said the record appears to show that the BSO response to the shooting amounted not just to one man’s failure but to an agency breakdown. 

“Where were the supervisors?” he asks. “Where was the training? How come it didn’t kick in?”

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Actions of Parkland commanding officer under scrutiny after Douglas High shooting

When the shots began ringing out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, Broward Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jan Jordan was the commanding officer in Parkland. 

But we now know it was the Coral Springs Police Department, under Chief Anthony Pustizzi, that set up a command post at the scene and led the response. 

So where was Jordan and what was she doing? That question has led to a great deal of speculation and controversy in law enforcement circles. Several sources close to BSO are questioning not only Jordan’s actions that day, but also whether Jordan, a former Fort Lauderdale cop hired by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel after his election, was even qualified for the post when Israel moved her from the civil division, where she handled such things as subpoenas and evictions, to become the district commander in Parkland last year.

As for the shooting itself, numerous BSO sources claim without substantiation that Jordan instructed deputies to set up perimeter around the school rather than go inside to confront the shooter as policy demands. Fox News has reported that the Parkland commander issued that order, but the allegation remains unproven. What we do know is the the school armed deputy, Scot Peterson, failed to enter the school while the shooting was taking place and that several other deputies allegedly failed to enter the building in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, an allegation Israel told CNN on Sunday that doesn’t dispute. 

Israel and BSO have answered none of Local 10’s questions regarding Jordan. And when investigative reporter Bob Norman caught up with Jordan and asked her if she’d ever led an incident command in the past and whether any stand-down order had been issued, she refused to answer. 

“I don’t have any comments,” she said. “Sorry, sir.”

The sheriff avoided the media at a prayer service Thursday that was held in his honor at a Pompano church run by BSO associate chaplain John Mohorn, a pastor whom Israel put on the BSO payroll and who as of last year was being paid $68,000 a year in taxpayers’ money. On Wednesday night, Israel canceled a previously scheduled speaking event in Davie. But in the CNN interview, he said the actions of every BSO employee involved in the shooting response will be investigated.  

“We will look at all the actions or inactions of every single deputy and leader on our agency, sergeants, lieutenants, captains,” he said. 

When asked if there had been a stand-down order issued by anyone, Israel didn’t issue a clear denial. 

“I can’t tell you anything about that,” said Israel. “I haven’t heard that.”

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Wild chicken invasion ruffles South Florida city

You can find them hanging on the streets and gathering in parking lots at area businesses, leading to complaints from people in the northwest section of Pompano Beach who say they’re disrupting the neighborhood. 

No, it’s not wild teens, it’s wild chickens that are multiplying at an uncontrollable rate and aggravating those who say the feral fowl are messing up their lawns, waking them up at ungodly hours, and overall causing a mess. 

“The chickens are a big complaint for this community,” said City Commissioner Beverly Perkins, adding that the chickens got on the city’s radar a couple of years ago and just keep growing in numbers. “We’re not sure where they’re coming from, but they’re multiplying.”

Apartment manager Cristina Costa said the chicken problem is so bad that she was driven to offer tenants a discount on their rent if they could “disappear” them. 

“You have chickens getting inside units, all over the parking lot, showing units you have chickens walking around you,” said Costa. 

The deal was $10 off for ever six chickens caught, but nobody ever collected. 

“They tried, but they couldn’t catch the chickens,” said Costa. 

She called Animal Control, but that agency simply doesn’t do chickens, so she called the city itself which actually sent out trappers, but again, no luck. 

“They couldn’t catch one chicken,” she said.

Rob McCaughan, the city’s public works director, said one thing he’s learned in his crash course on city chickens is that even though they number in the hundreds, perhaps thousands, in plain sight, they are not easy to rein in. 

“The chicken itself is very difficult to catch,” said McCaughan. “They are very leery of people. Wehired a local firm, we thought, ‘Well hey, we’re not experts, let’s hire the experts.’ They were not very successful either.” 

He said the city paid the company, TruTech Wildlife Removal, $1000 a month to respond to residents’ complaints and catch chickens. 

“Over about a nine-month period where we had the contract, it was approximately six chickens that we had documentation they were able to capture,” said McCaughan, adding that those six chickens were humanely put down with lethal injections. 

Doing the math, that comes to $1,500 a chicken captured.  

“Bad investment,” said resident Joshua Allen with a laugh. “I guess the chickens are smarter.”

Pompano Mayor Lamar Fisher said the city is dedicated to finding an answer. 

“We’re trying our best to deal with it,” said Fisher. “It’s a complicated issue.”
He said one of the reasons that it’s difficult to tame the wild chicken population is that some cultures welcome them. 
“We have a lot of Latins in our community,” he said. “We have a lot of Hatian communities that cater to chickens.” 
The city at one point tried to use code enforcement officers to cite the chicken owners, since it is illegal in Pompano to have chickens as pets. But Code Enforcement Supervisor Mario Sotolango said that too was a futile effort, since nobody admitted they were the owners of the chickens and the city was hard-pressed to prove otherwise. 
“It’s very difficult to have someone really admit yes this is my property,” said Sotolango. 
“How do you prove someone owns a chicken? You don’t,” said city spokeswoman Sandra King. 

McCaughan said he reached out to other cities that have neighborhoods overrun with chickens – including Miami, Hialeah, and Key West. He said the first two cities had no solution to offer Pompano Beach, but Key West did: embrace the chickens. 
“I guess Key West has accepted the chickens,” said McCaughan. “They embrace the chickens, is their solution.”
Pompano isn’t embracing the Key West solution, however. The city has six chicken traps that it offers free of charge to residents. But so far only a few chickens have been caught by residents and it’s not a fool-proof method. 
“A lot of times we catch an animal,” said McCaughan. “We don’t want to catch a cat or small dog.” 
At the time of our interview, all six of the city’s traps were unused, but officials from the mayor down said the city is determined to solve the problem. 
“We believe at some point that we, if we’re not able to eradicate the problem, will contain it,” said Sotolango.  

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Judge caught on hot mic: ‘The closer to my house, the higher the bond’

Broward Senior Judge Joel Lazarus was preparing for first appearance court on when he made the controversial statement on a hot mic to a prosecutor. 

“I’ll double the bond for those that take place in my neighborhood,” Lazarus said. 

The judge was talking that Jan. 21 morning about a burglary defendant who apparently committed his crime near Lazarus’ home. 

“Closer to my house, the higher the bond,” he continued. “That was always Lazarus’s rule.”

“I have no problem with that,” said the prosecutor. 

But many in the courthouse did have a problem with the judge’s statement, which was broadcast live on the internet, none more so than Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein. 

“What that conveys to the people in the courtroom or to the people watching in public is the fix is in,” said Finkelstein. “What I saw on that video was completely un-judge like, unprofessional, and unethical.” 

Finkelstein fired off a letter to Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter requesting that Lazarus be banned from all criminal court matters in the future, writing that Lazarus had undermined “our community’s faith in the integrity and independence  of the judiciary.” 

Tuter told Local 10 News today that he informed Lazarus, who usually works civil foreclosure cases, that he is barred not only from ever presiding over first appearance again, but that he is also banned from all matters involving criminal court, saying the statement was “clearly inappropriate.” 

Lazarus, for his part, acknowledged that his words were “unfortunate,” but claimed that he said them only jokingly and that he did not raise the bond in the case in question. 

“People say things in jest, unfortunately,” he said. “It was unfortunate, I shouldn’t have said it. I did say it. … There was no consequence from it. I didn’t raise or lower the bond.”

Finkelstein said if it was a joke it wasn’t funny. 

“It is the exact opposite of what a judge should do,” he said.  

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Homeless man slapped by Fort Lauderdale police officer gets paid by city

Bruce LeClair, who was thrown to the ground and slapped in the face by a Fort Lauderdale police officer, is no longer homeless.

Cellphone video of the incident went viral around the world.  

LeClair has settled his case with the city and county for $50,000. His attorney, Gary Kollin, said LeClair is off the streets and using the money to relocate out-of-state with a longtime girlfriend and also intends to help start a college fund for his grandson. 

“This was a clear-cut case of police brutality,” Kollin said. “It needs to be announced to society that we will not accept it when police officers abuse their authority.”

Kollin said he was prepared to go to trial but when the city, which is paying $45,000 of the settlement, offered the money, LeClair opted to take it. 

“This was his decision,” Kollin said. “He wanted to get it over with. This was immense emotional pressure on him, so he elected to resolve the case and put it behind him.” 

The video shows LeClair sleeping on a bench at the central bus station in downtown, when Officer Victor Ramirez put his foot on him to wake him up and then tried to usher him from the property.

LeClair told Ramirez he wanted to go to the bathroom, but Ramirez refused the request and can be heard telling LeClair he was going to “beat” and “f***” him up if he was going to fight him.

Ramirez is then seen throwing LeClair down and slapping him while he was sitting on the ground. 

Ramirez was acquitted of misdemeanor battery and falsifying records in criminal court and is back on patrol after serving a 20-day suspension. 

“It seems a very low and very small punishment in regards to what he did,” Kollin said. 

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, who approved of the settlement with LeClair, said he considers the officer’s actions “inappropriate,” but felt the 20-day suspension was sufficient punishment.

He said he believed the damages suffered by LeClair — physical, emotional and otherwise — were not “substantial” — something which Kollin disagrees.


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BSO settles dog mauling lawsuit for $175,000

Miami street artists Humberto Pellegrino and Pedro Claveria were painting graffiti on train cars at 2 a.m. one morning in Pompano Beach when Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies moved in. 

Both men said that they were surrounded by deputies, who wrongly suspected theft, and the artists peacefully surrendered.

But according to a federal lawsuit, that didn’t stop Deputy Davis Acevedo from siccing his K-9, Dino, on the men while they laid face down on the gravel. 

“They kept saying, ‘Eat boy, eat boy,'” Pellegrino said.  

The men told Local 10 News after the lawsuit was filed in 2015 that another deputy, Jerry Wengert, who is also a former TV reality star, lifted Pellegrino’s leg to prompt the dog continue mangling him, leaving gruesome wounds behind.

“I just yelled as loud as I could in agony,” Pellegrino said. “I thought they were going to kill me.” 

The Broward Sheriff’s Office has settled that lawsuit, costing taxpayers $175,000, plus hefty legal fees. 

“Every time he would latch on to him, they would yank him,” the men’s attorney, David Brill, said. 

Brill said he hoped the settlement would prompt BSO to fire Wengert, who has a long history of excessive force complaints, including a pending federal lawsuit in the beating of another man, Kevin Buckler, after Wengert pulled him over for allegedly playing loud music on his radio. 

Wengert was also criminally charged with assaulting a teenaged boy and lying about it in police reports back in 2012, but he was later acquitted of the allegations in court. 

“They just took something from you, you know? I surrendered,” Pellegrino said about his incident with the deputies. “They fed me to an animal.”

Both men said deputies seemed disappointed when they opened up their duffel bag and saw only spray paint and art supplies. Nevertheless, deputies charged all four of the men with burglary and criminal mischief — felonies that were later dropped by prosecutors. The men wound up pleading guilty to trespassing, for which they were ordered to pay court costs.

BSO officials had no comment on the settlement. As for Wengert, he remains on the force.

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