The Deadliest High School Shooting


17 Dead in Preventable Tragedy 

On February 14, 2018, the deadliest high school shooting in American history took place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  The crime was perpetrated by a disturbed former student with a long history of anti-social behavior.  

Nikolas Cruz, 17 at the time, entered the school through the unlocked front door.  He had in his possession an AR-15 that he legally purchased a year prior.  Cruz immediately opened fire in the lobby.  Continuing his rampage he traveled down the hallway for several minutes shooting into classrooms.

After approximately 5 minutes of continual firing, his gun apparently jammed.  He dropped his gun, blended in with the fleeing students and walked out of the school.  Initially able to escape, he was picked up by police a few hours later as school officials were able to provide police with a positive identification.  

There were several breakdowns in this tragedy.  Most obviously, a Broward County Sheriff school resource officer stayed outside the school for the duration of the shooting.  The resource officer was suspended and immediately retired.  He was later arrested and is still awaiting trial for his negligent inaction.  Responding officers set up a perimeter and did not immediately enter the building either.  The school’s internal policies were not clear and a “Code Red” was not called because employees were not aware who had permission to authorize it.  

From a prevention standpoint there were numerous breakdowns.  Cruz had shown behavioral problems since preschool.  He had recently made threats against other students had had to be placed in an alternate education environment.  The school had gone so far as to ban him from wearing a backpack.  Social media posts were seen by staff members that showed Cruz cutting his arms and threatening to buy a gun.  Pictures of weapons and threats against different groups and schools peppered Cruz’s accounts. 

These behaviors had been reported to law enforcement.   The Broward County Sheriff later stated that they had received 23 phone calls about Cruz over a decade.  The real number may have been as high as 45 calls.  Several of these calls involved concern about school shootings.  The lack of response from the Broward County Sheriff’s office was disturbing. 

The FBI also seemingly dropped the ball on this case.  Two months before the shooting the FBI tip line received a call from someone close to Cruz.  The person stated that Cruz owned a gun and wanted to kill people.  The caller detailed his erratic behavior and frightening social media posts.  The FBI didn’t follow its own protocols and the tip went in the circular file.

These breakdowns resulted in tragedy.  At the end of Valentine’s Day, 2018, there were 17 members of the Stoneman Douglas Hight School community dead and another 17 injured.  Nikolas Cruz was finally taken seriously, but it was too late.  

Christopher Flanagan
photo By This drawing was published in Vol. 2 of the History of the City of New York by Martha Joanna Lamb (1881; page 634), as referenced here., Public Domain,


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