A Massachusetts officer who knows exactly what it’s like to risk his own life for the safety of others criticized Florida cops who stood outside a high school building last week as more than a dozen students and staff members were murdered by a gunman.
‘Your first priority is to neutralize the threat,’ Richard ‘Dic’ Donohue said on Boston Herald Radio’s ‘Morning Meeting’ show.
Donohue was shot and nearly died in April 2013 during a police pursuit of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.
Donohue explained that ‘time is of the essence’ when dealing with a crisis situation.
‘When there’s an active shooter, officer safety comes toward the bottom of the list,’ he said. ‘It takes a fatal event, it takes mistakes to really learn the lessons.’
Dic Donohue, the Massachusetts officer who nearly died during a pursuit of the Tsarnaev brothers, said he would have ran inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after it was revealed that an armed Florida deputy stood outside while Nikolas Cruz opened fire
Donohue, pictured leaving the hospital with his wife Kim, was shot and nearly bled to death in April 2013
Donohue was one of the officers pursuing Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev following the Boston Marathon bombing
The former officer, who retired from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 2016, said there isn’t a ‘black or white answer’ on how to handle a school shooting but said if it was him he probably would have gone in the building to confront the shooter.
‘It’s a tough call,’ he noted.
His comments came after Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Peterson, the armed school resource officer, failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14 as 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire on the terrified students and teachers.
Surveillance footage showed that Peterson waited outside for four minutes. 17 people were killed in the massacre, making it the second-deadliest shooting ever at a US public school.
Peterson, who resigned from the department before he could be placed on unpaid leave, was branded a ‘coward’ by President Donald Trump.
It was revealed, however, that he wasn’t the only sheriff deputy to cower outside instead of charging into the school.
Coral Springs police officers said that when they responded to the shooting, they found another three Broward County Sheriff’s deputies crouching behind their vehicles, law enforcement sources told CNN.
Not one of the four deputies had entered the school, sources said.
Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Peterson, the armed school resource officer, was branded a ‘coward’ by President Trump after it emerged he waited outside the building during the recent mass shooting (above in December 2014 with the principal at Marjory Douglas)
Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not return reporters’ requests for comment.
Surveillance footage, from cameras at the scene, is currently being reviewed which will provide definitive proof of the sheriff’s office response, along with an official report from Coral Springs officers.
But it seems that the Broward deputies’ alleged fail to act is causing friction between the two law enforcement groups.
That growing resentment boiled over on February 15, the day after the fatal shooting, when officers from both Coral Springs and Broward attended the candlelit vigil for victims.
Coral Springs City Manager Mike Goodrum angrily confronted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, in front of a dozen witnesses, over the claims that Israel’s officers had remained outside the high school while students could have been bleeding out inside, sources said.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks before the start of a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center, in Sunrise, Florida on February 21
Goodrum later admitted to having a ‘heated moment’ with the sheriff but said they had put the confrontation behind them.
‘Given the horrific events of that day emotions were running high and the sheriff and I had a heated moment the following evening,’ he told CNN.
‘Sheriff Israel and I have spoken several times since and I can assure you that our departments have a good working relationship and the utmost respect for each other.’
An internal email by sent by Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi just days after the shooting, appears to show that his officers had concerned about how the Sheriff’s Department were presenting themselves in the wake of the shooting.
‘I understand that another agency has given the impression that it had provided the majority of the rescue efforts, and that the tremendous work of the Coral Springs Police and Fire Departments has not been recognized,’ he said in the email, obtained by CNN.
‘Please know that this issue will be addressed, and the truth will come out in time.’
Suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer on February 19
Coral Springs officers reported that they arrived at the scene on February 14, and were stunned to find all four deputies still outside the building, with their pistols drawn.
With some direction from the Broward deputies, the Coral Springs officers entered the building to track down the shooter.
Additional Broward deputies soon arrived, and two of them joined the Coral Springs officers inside the building, along with an officer from Sunrise City Police.
Israel has confirmed that video from the school shows Deputy Peterson, the school’s armed response officer and former employee of the month, standing outside the building for more than four minutes while Cruz opened fire inside.
‘What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position and he never went in,’ said Sheriff Israel, referring to the building on campus, popularly known as the ‘freshman building,’ where authorities said the bulk of the shooting occurred.
Israel told reporters the shooting in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland lasted six minutes, and that Peterson arrived at the freshman building about 90 seconds after the first shots were fired, then lingered outside for at least four minutes.
Asked what the deputy should have done, Israel replied: ‘Went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.’
Peterson has not given a reason for why he did not enter the building, Israel said.
Neither the deputy nor any representatives could immediately be reached for comment.
Israel said he would not release the video at this time and may never do so, ‘depending on the prosecution and criminal case’ against Cruz, the 19-year-old former student who is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the assault.
Peterson was initially suspended without pay, and has since resigned.
An internal memo on Scott Peterson’s personnel file shows that he was named employee of the month in May 2012, and was given the honor in large part for his work with the students.
‘Your district has recognized you as an exemplary deputy who has made a difference in the community where you serve,’ reads the memo.
Performance evaluations included in that same file also show that Peterson received glowing performance reviews.
And in March 2017, Peterson was nominated for Deputy of the Year.
‘Throughout 2016, Deputy Peterson conducted numerous investigations. He always went the extra step and followed through on each case and conducted thorough follow ups,’ wrote the recommending officer.
‘The crimes he handled including property crimes, assaults, and batteries, aggravated assaults, and narcotics violations. His investigative skills resulted in numerous arrests and recovered property.’
The recommendation also noted that Peterson ‘uses appropriate resources at his disposal, including mental health professionals and investigators from the school board.’
His recommendation for that honor came in the wake of his last annual review.
It also said that Peterson was expected to ‘continue to produce the high level of service to the students and staff at his school’ while recommending her ‘seek specialized training related to his duties as an SRO.’
Deputy Peterson was the only law enforcement officer present on February 14 when the rampage started, Sheriff Israel said.
He was later joined by the other three deputies from Broward County, before the Coral Springs officers arrived.
Authorities have said that Cruz, who was expelled from Stoneman Douglas High last year for unspecified disciplinary problems, made his getaway moments after the shooting by blending in with students fleeing the school for safety.
Police officers arriving on the scene from the adjacent city of Coral Springs thought the gunman was still inside as they searched the building, based on a security camera video feed that they mistakenly believed was showing them real-time images but was actually footage from 20 minutes earlier.
Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi told reporters on Thursday that the confusion stemmed from human error and a ‘communication failure,’ not malfunctioning equipment.
The vigil began with a moment of silence for those slain at the school on February 15
Hundreds of people attended a heartbreaking vigil for the 17 shooting victims in Florida on February 15
He insisted that the mishap did not put any lives in danger.
Now an investigation has been launched into how two of the other deputies handled warnings about the gunman before the shooting.
The Broward sheriff has said Cruz, after slipping away from the school, casually spent more than an hour drifting through a Walmart store and visiting two fast-food outlets before he was spotted and arrested.
Israel said Thursday he had decided on the basis of his findings to suspend Peterson, but the deputy resigned first.
Israel said two other deputies were placed on restrictive administrative assignment, stemming from their response to numerous calls for service and reports received by the sheriff’s department pertaining to Cruz during the past 10 years.
The shooting renewed a national debate between proponents of gun rights, as enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and advocates for tougher restrictions on firearms.
High school students from Stoneman Douglas and elsewhere around the country have launched a protest and lobbying campaign demanding new curbs on assault weapons. U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested school gun violence could be abated by arming teachers.
The head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, lashed out at gun control advocates, accusing liberal elites of politicizing the Florida mass shooting to try to attack ‘our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.’
The carnage also raised questions about whether law enforcement agencies did all they could to detect and follow up on possible warning signs of last week’s gun violence in advance.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation prompted widespread outrage last Friday when it said it had failed to act on a tip warning that a man, since identified as Cruz, had possessed a gun, the desire to kill and the potential to commit a school shooting.
The revelation prompted Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, to call for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray.