It saddens me to say this, but we continue to witness mass shooting after mass shooting. Schools should be places where innocent children should be able to walk freely down the halls from classroom to classroom, without the fear of getting shot at or killed.
Unfortunately, not having a fear of getting shot in school is no longer an option for thousands of children in this country who have had to experience such a tragedy. The children, teachers, adults and faculty members who have had to endure such pain have to live with this fear, in part, because of the changing moral landscape in this country.
While the erosion of morality has plagued this country with atrocities that would have been unimaginable 50 years ago, we also must look at other factors that have contributed to other school shootings. But let’s focus on what happened at Stoneman Douglas for a second.
While I don’t know what it’s like being a student while a deranged gunman is shooting down the halls while I see my classmates run away, I can say that I felt part of their fear through the radio.
I remember clearly hearing the cries of despair on the radio as I listened in to the immediate aftermath of the shooting in my car, chills running down my spine, as I prayed for no lives lost. Hearing the despair and anguish in the voices of the parents calling in and the children, not knowing where to go or what was going on, was heartbreaking. I was praying that the shooter didn’t kill anyone, or that at least he had been apprehended before he was able to take anyone’s life.
But, that is was not what happened at Stoneman Douglas. We all know that 17 lives were taken from us on that tragic afternoon. We all know who the shooter is. But do we all know what was really done to stop the shooter from carrying out such evil?
I don’t think we do. I don’t even think that anyone really cared about the shooter. In other words, time and time again people just kicked the can down the road (the can being the shooter). Plain and simple, no one did their job.
From the information that is being released slowly day by day after the shooting, we are learning that there were systematic and authoritative failures at the FBI, Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the School District.
Annalisa Merelli, a journalist at Quartz, has a detailed account of several key incidents in which BSO officers and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) had opportunities to deal with the problem at hand. In fact, they had several years to deal with this situation and didn’t. Which is extremely frustrating to find out.
The Broward Sheriff’s office, “in the interest of full transparency,” has decided to make available the list of all 23 calls for service at the shooters home. Of those calls, they say that “18 involved Nikolas Cruz.” They also state that “none appeared arrestable under Florida law. However, two of the calls remain under internal investigation.”
Why do they remain under investigation? Well, that’s because in those incidents BSO officers were told that the shooter had weapons and was a threat to society and a potential school shooter. What did they do? Well nothing of course, as we all unfortunately know.
These failures could have prevented the shooter from not only obtaining weapons but could have also allowed him to get the help he needed to be somewhat of a productive member of our society. Instead, we are left with the “what if” dilemma.
What if the FBI would have done its job and followed the leads it had? What if the Broward Sheriff’s Office would have handled altercations with the shooter differently? What if the School District treated children with mental health issues in a proper way as to help them instead of leaving them to their own devices?
What if the shooter’s information was shared, with privacy concerns appropriately handled, between departments in a way that allows for everyone to know when red flags should have been investigated?
These “what if” questions would not have needed to be answered because if those in the position to do something about the shooter’s situation would have done so. There may have never been a shooting, therefore no killings, no burials, and no need to ask about the ineptness of those in power.
But we must ask those questions. We also must ask, why is it that those in power, and those in the position to do something about troubled children and young adults, like the shooter in this situation, are not being held accountable for the countless errors that they were responsible for.
This is not to take responsibility from the shooter for the evil act that he committed, but it is a fair and reasonable assessment of the situation that this country finds itself in.
Law enforcement, time and time again, has failed its communities in handling individuals and red flags correctly, which has been found to be a contributing factor in the loss of innocent lives.
Why didn’t the officers knowing that the shooter, who at the time was making death threats to others, and therefore was a threat to those around him, do something about it?
Why didn’t the officers tell their superiors about all the disturbing information they have discovered about this young man, and why, if their superiors were informed, did they continue to do nothing about it?
And if these officers did tell their superiors about the shooter, which we know have learned had a dangerous and troubled past, was Sheriff Scott Israel one of those superiors?
Did Sheriff Israel know of all the instances in which individuals called with comments about the shooter, plus the altercations between the shooter and his deputies, which ended up totaling about 39 times?
And if he did know, why did Israel, with the authority that he has, not do anything to at least facilitate the process of this young man’s weapons being taken from him?
Furthermore, to add insult to injury, we now know that, according to Sheriff Scott Israel, an officer was on the scene outside the building during the shooting and the officer did not enter the building to engage the shooter. To make matters worse, it was also reported, by CNN, that at the time of the shooting, “three other Broward County Sheriff’s deputies were also outside the school and had not entered.”
In other words, what should lead the public to believe that this will no longer happen under his watch, or under the watch of anyone else who was in a position of power who could have helped stop this? Will we get all the answers we need from him and his department? I hope so.
I hope we get better answers from the FBI as well. Because so far what we continue to get from them is a “Sorry about that, we heard about the shooter but didn’t do anything about it. We’ll try better next time.” What if next time 20 kids die? What if the next time someone doesn’t do what they are supposed to do 50 kids die? What then, more apologies?
But until then, I would like for Sheriff Scott Israel to step aside as investigators try to figure out what indeed happened within his own department regarding the information about the shooter. Becuase if it’s any worse than what we already know there is no reason for him to continue to be in the positions that he is in.
We, the public, who you are supposed to protect and serve, deserve answers to all the questions that I have presented above.
Please let us know why you did not do your job. Don’t blame the guns. Don’t blame the bullets.
There are solutions to solving the issue’s this country has regarding mental health and gun control, but we will not get the answers we need if we continue to wait for responses from the people in power who were part of the problem.
Cover photo courtesy of Richard Lawrence