How cops scoured Stoneman Douglas in search of killer

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Police report details harrowing hunt for shooter; the city has withheld many other records, citing an open investigation

Lisa J. Huriash, Tribune News Service

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — They had to walk past dead children and glass windows pierced with bullets, as they hunted for a school shooter.

One Coral Springs police officer, armed with a rifle, said he positioned himself near a parking lot in case the killer started firing down from inside the school. Another directed students fleeing from school buildings before anybody knew where the shooter was.

These firsthand accounts from dozens of officers come from the first batch of reports released Friday by Coral Springs police about the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

The city has withheld many other records, citing an open investigation. Among the reports not yet released are documents that offer a timeline of police’s efforts and reports by additional officers who tended to wounded students.

In the reports released Friday, 38 officers provide single-page summaries of what each did on Feb. 14: How they swept through one floor of a school building, then another, and reaching students and teachers hiding in classrooms and closets.

Entering the 1200 building

Officer Christopher Fahey teamed up with at least three other officers to enter the 1200 building, where much of the shooting happened.

They walked in through the building’s west doors and made their way up the stairs to the second floor. Other officers continued up to the third floor.

Fahey helped students down the stairs and out of the building.

Officer Stefan Wiesing also describes entering the 1200 building.

Wiesing saw the body of a male victim and also noticed there were bullet holes on a third-floor glass window.

Several classroom doors were locked, but police were able to get in and check for any injured students.

Helping the wounded

Officer Jason Mulvey joined the Hallandale Beach SWAT team to sweep through the second floor of the 100 building.

Officer Scott Russo joined a SWAT medic and some police detectives as they arrived in a BearCat armored vehicle, setting up at the southeast corner of the school.

“Once inside there was a female victim with an injury to her knee,” Russo wrote. The SWAT medic “began treating her as we drove her away from the scene and transferred her to paramedics away from the school.”

Officer Jessica Lortie worked with the SWAT team to clear out three buildings and evacuate students and teachers who were hiding.

Officer Ryan Liss worked with Officer Chris Crawford to treat two students who were shot and now on the grass.

Firefighter/paramedics set up a “triage center” outside the school where the wounded were being taken.

Officer Gary Scheetz, one of the first to arrive at Pine Island and Holmberg roads, helped with crowd control as students and parents gathered, Scheetz wrote. “I cleared the intersection for the ambulances” so that they can get the wounded to hospitals, according to the report. Scheetz also helped get students on school buses headed to the Marriott, where students were being taken to be reunited with their parents.

Looking for the killer

Officer Marla Ferry wrote that about 2:23 p.m., she responded to the school and was ordered by a commander to guard the main entrance of the school “until the school was deemed safe to evacuate the students.”

Officer Mark Mitter grabbed a rifle and looked out from the parking lot “in the event the suspect exited the building or in case shots were fired from an elevated position from the building.”

Officer Louis Coldros drove up in a police car near the school, the lights and sirens on.

Coldros grabbed a department-issued AR-15, as well as a first-aid kit and trauma bag.

Coldros was on the south side of the school, joining police who were inspecting cars in the parking lot, “looking for the suspect and victims,” Coldros wrote.

Coldros later stood in position along a path where the killer might head toward as other officers went into buildings. Liss helped students evacuate from the band auditorium and the cafeteria.

Keeping parents at a distance

Officer Bruce Kozlowski saw a large group of “visibly upset” parents rushing toward an area of Stoneman Douglas and Westglades Middle.

Kozlowski and another officer set up a perimeter to prevent them from going toward potential danger, given that the shooter still hadn’t been arrested.

Officer Kimberly Payne helped Kozlowski, setting up a place where parents could wait to be reunited with their children.

Both officers stayed with parents and families of students until Code Red lockdowns were lifted, and parents were told to reunite with their kids at the nearby Marriott hotel.

As families were reunited, Kozlowski helped clear cars blocking the roads.

Reuniting at a nearby hotel

Officer Kyle Palmer provided security for the families waiting to be reunited with their children at the Marriott Heron Bay. After a few hours, Palmer wrote, only the families who had not heard from their children were left.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at the school, has admitted to carrying out the shooting that killed 17 students and faculty and wounded 17 others.

He left the school among the panicked students and headed to a Subway shop inside a Walmart, at 6001 Coral Ridge Drive in Parkland, where he bought a drink. He rested at a McDonald’s at 5741 Coral Ridge Drive in Coral Springs and then continued along the 4700 block of Wyndham Lakes Drive in Coral Springs.

An hour and 12 minutes after Cruz left the blood-soaked campus terrorized, a Coconut Creek police found him on Wyndham Lakes Drive, 2 miles from the school.

A Broward County grand jury on Wednesday indicted Cruz on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. He has an arraignment hearing scheduled for March 14.

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