A poorly organized 911 system hampered the police response to the shooting at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School.
That’s one finding discussed on Tuesday by the public safety commission investigating
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission chair, detailed how the complex,
multi-agency police and emergency response system in Parkland delayed police officers
attempting to respond as the shooter opened fire. Parkland contracts with the Broward
Sheriff’s Office for police services and Coral Springs for fire and emergency medical
services (EMS). The two agencies have two separate dispatch centers, which are not
automatically in communication with each other.
911 calls from cell phones in Parkland go to Coral Springs dispatchers. That means if
someone is trying to call police from a cell phone in Parkland — as dozens of students
and teachers attempted to do as gunfire erupted — their call will go to the Coral Springs
communications center. Coral Springs dispatchers then have to relay the call to Broward.
“Who in the world thinks that when you call 911 and you tell your story, someone’s going
to say, wait a minute, and I’m going to transfer you to someone else, and you have to tell
your story again?” Gualtieri said.
He told the commission that from the time the first call came in about the Stoneman
Douglas shooting, it took 69 seconds for the first sheriff’s deputies to be alerted. By the
time they found out, 23 people had been shot.
Gualtieri said he’s concerned that nine months later, Broward, Coral Springs and
Parkland still haven’t worked out a permanent fix to that and other
emergency communication issues. And, he said, other counties in Florida have the same
Commissioners continue their meetings the rest of this week. A preliminary agenda says
they’ll be hearing from Broward schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, Broward County
Sheriff Scott Israel and former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the
school resource officer who’s been widely criticized for not entering the building where the
shooting was taking place.
Meanwhile, the family of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas
High School on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the FBI for failing to act on tips about
troubling behavior by the suspected shooter.
Jaime Guttenberg, a 14-year-old freshman known for her love of dance, was among the
17 people killed. Speaking with reporters during a break at the hearing, her father, Fred
Guttenberg, said the lawsuit is among the many measures victims’ families are taking to
hold accountable the people and agencies who missed tips about the alleged shooter’s
mental health problems.
“My daughter died and it was preventable, if people would’ve done their job,” he said.
He said lawyers from the Miami firm Podhurst Orseck will be representing the family.