— Analysis —
From Parkland To Conviction: The Saga Of One Of America’s Deadliest School Shootings
On a warm winter day in Parkland, Florida, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, expelled for repeated disciplinary issues, entered a building on campus and opened fire, eventually killing 17 people and injuring 17 more.
The shooter, who will not be named by The Daily Wire, was recently sentenced to life in prison for his crimes, but it’s important to remember how we ended up here.
February 14, 2018, began like any other day at Stoneman Douglas. Students were in class, teachers were teaching, and no one inside the school had any clue about the tragedy that was about to take place.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m. that day, a 19-year-old former student with a history of disturbing behavior entered one of the school buildings and opened fire into multiple classrooms. A fire alarm went off as the shooter continued to fire into classrooms, and a lockdown wasn’t activated until minutes later.
By the time the rampage was over, 14 students and three staff members were killed, and another 17 were injured, making the Parkland shooting the fifth deadliest school shooting in American history and surpassing the 1999 Columbine High School massacre as the deadliest shooting to take place at an American high school.
In the aftermath of the shooting, as Democrats and the media rallied against Second Amendment supporters, disturbing information came to light about how law enforcement in Parkland handled the shooting.
The shooter was known to law enforcement and government agencies long before the school shooting. He was transferred between schools six times within a three-year period due to behavioral issues that schools sought to address themselves rather than pass to law enforcement.
In 2014, he was sent to a school specifically for children with emotional or learning disabilities, and reportedly threatened other students, The Washington Post reported. By 2016, he was allowed back into Stoneman Douglas but was expelled the following year, but due to Broward County School policy, he wasn’t expelled from the system, and sent to yet another school.
Throughout all of this, psychiatrists recommended committing the shooter to a residential treatment facility, while the Florida Department of Children and Families investigated him in 2016 for graphic Snapchat posts in which he cut his arms and said he wanted to buy a gun. A school resource officer during this time also suggested the shooter receive an involuntary psychiatric examination.
In the decade before the shooting, police received dozens of phone calls reporting the shooter and his family, including calls about him threatening to shoot up the high school.
All the while, the shooter’s social media posts included pictures of him with numerous weapons, as well as threats against police officers and others, saying he wanted to recreate the University of Texas tower shooting of 1966.
And just one month before the shooting, someone called the FBI’s tip line to report the shooter’s seeming desire to kill people, his disturbing behavior, and his threatening social media posts — but the FBI never followed up, NBC News reported.
In addition to numerous authorities failing to prevent the shooter from ever being able to follow through with his vicious threats, police were found to have done little to stop the shooter once he entered the school. School Resource Officer (SRO) Scot Peterson was armed and at the high school when the shooting began, but remained outside the building as the shooter gunned down students and staff. He was suspended without pay shortly after the shooting and retired, but more than a year later, he was arrested and charged for child neglect and culpable negligence, as well as perjury. He pleaded not guilty and filed to have the charges dropped. His trial was delayed in July.
In his defense, Peterson’s attorney has said the former SRO believed the shooter had remained outside the building, and radio dispatches back this up to an extent, with Peterson telling police to lock down the school and ensure “no one comes inside the school.” But he also told police that “We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200,” referring to the building the shooter first entered.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel received the most scrutiny for his response to the shooting, with Coral Springs police officers arriving to find that sheriff’s deputies had not entered the building well after the alert came in. Israel also later admitted that he had changed the sheriff’s policy regarding active shooter situations from saying deputies “shall” engage with active shooters to saying they “may” engage. The change was credited with allowing deputies to stay outside while the shooter rampaged through the school.
On April 20, 2018, Israel received a no-confidence vote from his local union. A year later, on January 11, 2019, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis officially suspended Israel from his duties over his response to the shooting. Later that year, after attempting to appeal his suspension, the Florida Senate voted to uphold DeSantis’ decision.
The shooter’s trial was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on October 13, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, getting spared the death penalty by the Florida jury. A death penalty conviction requires a unanimous vote from the jury, but three jurors reportedly voted against the death penalty, resulting in a life sentence instead.
Jury foreman Benjamin Thomas told CBS Miami that he voted for the death penalty to be imposed, and was “not happy” with how things turned out.
“It really came down to a specific juror who believed [the gunman] was mentally ill,” Thomas said. “She didn’t believe that because he’s mentally ill he should get the death penalty.”
As The Daily Wire reported at the time, the decision not to implement the death penalty was met with disappointment and frustration by family members of victims who attended the trial.
“What do we have the death penalty for,” asked Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed during the shooting.
“We are beyond disappointed with the outcome today,” his wife, Lori, said after the sentence was handed down. “I just don’t understand this.”
A life sentence means the shooter will be off the streets and unable to hurt any more innocent victims, while also saving taxpayers the costs of appealing a death sentence.
Families of victims, however, receive little solace from the conviction, knowing their loved ones are no longer alive while the shooter gets to live a full life, even if he is behind bars.