February 14th, Valentine’s Day, is usually a peaceful holiday meant to celebrate goodwill and love between family and friends. This Valentine’s Day, however, Americans were shocked by a sudden burst of violence in Parkland, Florida, when 17 students and faculty of Stoneman Douglas High School were killed by a lone gunman. The shooter and former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is in police custody and currently awaiting trial by grand jury this week.
Since the shooting, the internet and major news outlets have been aflame with debate on the motives and background of the shooter, as well as firearm regulation, which always pops up after a tragedy like this. What I would like to discuss, however, is law enforcement’s role in the situation, and how the FBI, police, and other authority figures surrounding the incident completely failed to fulfill their roles and protect the public. Even before the tragedy occurred, several warning signs became apparent to Cruz’s family that he may become a danger to others.
On January 5th, a family friend of Cruz called the FBI’s tip line explaining her worry that Cruz may be likely to cause an incident. Her warning was anything but subtle, saying that, “I know he’s going to explode.” This was not the FBI’s only warning. Three months before the shooting, Cruz himself called the authorities just after Thanksgiving, telling them that he had just been in a fight and was struggling with many problems after the recent death of his mother. Both of these pleas for help went unanswered by the proper authorities.
These are by far the worst cases of negligence by law enforcement — their greatest offense occurred the same day of the incident. Stoneman Douglas High’s armed security officer, Deputy Scot Peterson, reportedly failed to confront Cruz while the shooting was in progress. According to multiple witnesses on scene, Peterson disregarded police protocol by failing to engage the shooter and instead waited for backup to arrive in the form of his own department and special forces. It was not until seven minutes after the gunfire began that Cruz was apprehended away from the crime scene by an officer from the neighboring police department.
It is clear that the FBI and various law enforcement agencies completely failed to prevent an incident that could be seen miles away. I hope sincerely that all parties involved are placed under greater scrutiny so that a tragedy like this can be prevented in the future. After all, the duty of these groups and agencies is to protect citizens. If they can’t perform their duty, why are they there?