The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

Four Minutes of a Massacre That Demonstrate Why We Cannot Rely on the Police Alone

We know about the FBI getting a direct, detailed tip about Nikolas Cruz and never forwarding it to their Florida personnel.

We learned, in recent days, about the police responding 39 times to emergency calls at Cruz’s home over a seven-year period.

It is easy to miss anecdotes about the shooter that are jaw-dropping:

Long before he slaughtered 17 people at the South Florida high school he once attended, Nikolas Cruz had a disturbing way of introducing himself.

“Hi, I’m Nick,” he used to say, according to an acquaintance interviewed by CNN. “I’m a school shooter.”

I’m rather stunned that someone can call 911 and say that you’ve put a gun to people’s heads in the past, and they’ll walk away after a mere conversation because you had “hugged and reconciled” with the person you threatened.

But the worst revelation, that left many I spoke to at CPAC last night almost speechless with anger, is the news that an armed sheriff’s deputy remained outside the high school building in Parkland, taking a defensive position and simply waiting for four minutes as the shooter murdered people inside.

A school campus cop heard the gunfire, rushed to the building but never went inside — instead waiting outside for another four agonizing minutes as Cruz continued the slaughter.

In November, a tipster called BSO to say Cruz “could be a school shooter in the making” but deputies did not write up a report on that warning. It came just weeks after a relative called urging BSO to seize his weapons. Two years ago, according to a newly released timeline of interactions with Cruz’s family, a deputy investigated a report that Cruz “planned to shoot up the school” — intelligence that was forwarded to the school’s resource officer, with no apparent result.

The school’s resource officer, Scot Peterson, 54, was suspended without pay then immediately resigned and retired. Two other deputies have been placed on restricted duty while Internal Affairs investigates how they handled the two shooter warnings.

On Thursday, Israel said surveillance footage captured the officer’s inaction. Asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said: “Went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”

Israel added: “I am devastated. Sick to my stomach. He never went in.”

Since the Columbine school shooting that left 12 dead in 1999, cops have been trained not to wait for heavily armed SWAT officers but to enter buildings to find and kill the threat.

“When we train police, the first priority is to stop the killing,” said Pete Blair, the executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University.

Finally, there’s one exceptionally odd wrinkle to this story:

Peterson is mentioned as part of a 2016 social services agency investigation into Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old identified by police as the gunman. According to a Florida Department of Children and Families report detailing that investigation, Peterson was approached by investigators and “refused to share any information . . . regarding [an] incident that took place with” the teenager.

Why would this cop refuse to cooperate with social services?

It’s hard to sort through all the outraged thoughts running through the country’s collective mind.

For starters, isn’t it convenient that this is revealed the day after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel appeared on a nationally televised CNN forum? At that embarrassing pep-rally of an event, the sheriff had the gall to turn his ire towards Dana Loesch, telling her, “You’re not standing up for [the children] until you say, ‘I want less weapons.’” It is not difficult to guess why the sheriff would want to refocus public anger on another figure.

In the eight days since the mass shooting, we’ve had a relentless, and often one-sided, national conversation about how to respond, focusing almost entirely on gun control. At the heart of that conversation is the contention that private ownership of guns is inherently dangerous, that armed citizens are basically ticking time bombs who can’t be trusted with firearms, and that in a safer and more just society, only the police would have guns.

Instead, the Parkland shooting is proving to be a colossal cascading failure of both local and federal law enforcement. We know the world has plenty of good cops and good FBI agents. But as American citizens, we never know when we’re going to roll snake-eyes and find that the threat in our midst was missed by cops and that they will not come quickly to our rescue. This is why we need the option to protect ourselves — a right which is in the Constitution.

What is the point of changing our laws if the police cannot rise to the challenge of enforcing them?

An Update on the Trump Administration’s Efforts on Prison Reform

Yesterday, I had a chance to meet with Doug Deason, a wealthy businessman and advocate for criminal-justice reform, Derek Cohen, who is director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice, and John Koufos, who is national director of Reentry Initiatives for Right on Crime. The good news is that the Trump administration’s interest in prison anti-recidivism programs is alive and well, and that sometime this spring, it is likely that the Trump administration will issue an executive order directing the federal Bureau of Prisons to open their doors to outside service providers — faith-based organizations, drug rehabilitation, and related services — and to add the bureau to an interagency group focusing on anti-recidivism.

In 2011, the Obama administration created the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, aiming to reduce recidivism and help guide released felons to build non-criminal lives through employment, education, housing, health, and child welfare. But there’s something odd if you look at the Federal Interagency Reentry Council and its list of participating parts of the government: There are 21 agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau . . . but not the federal Bureau of Prisons. This is an odd omission, considering how the job of the Bureau of Prisons is to, you know, run federal prisons. This is like organizing a meeting about changing drug policy and not inviting the DEA.

It’s a good sign that Brooke Rollins, formerly CEO and president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is joining a new White House office run by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Koufos mentioned to me a good example of the sort of challenge a felon reentering society faces, something I never thought about: getting a new form of valid identification. A prisoner is sentenced and serves their term, and oftentimes finds that on release, their only form of identification is their prison ID, which expires in one to three months, depending upon the jurisdiction. While they were in prison, their driver’s license expired.

“They can’t get an ID, because either they don’t have money to get a birth certificate” — official copies of birth certificates can cost anywhere from $15 to $50 — or if they go to their local DMV, a warrant check occurs, and they might have an old warrant for an old traffic ticket or an old speeding ticket that they didn’t pay forever ago,” Koufos said. While they were in jail, the unpaid tickets and failure to appear in court turned into warrants for arrest. “So they don’t want to go the DMV, because that might send them back to the county jail.”

Unless you’re getting paid under the table, under U.S. law, “employees must present, to their employer, evidence of identity and employment eligibility within three business days of the date employment begins.” Just by getting felons started on the process of getting ID — and resolving any unpaid tickets or fines before they’re released — enhances their chances of being able to get and keep a job and stay out of trouble.

ADDENDAJohn Podhoretz, with the sort of information his gun-control-advocating friends and neighbors in New York City should consider, but probably won’t:

There are 126 million households in the United States. In 35 percent of those households — some 44 million — there is a gun. There is an average of 2.8 people per household, according to the Census Bureau. This means that something like 120 million people in this country live with at least one gun in their homes.

In 2013, 107,000 crimes in the United States were committed with a gun. There are 330 million people in the United States. If we assume every one of those crimes was the work of a different individual, then .03 percent of all those who live with a gun in the United States used that gun in the commission of a crime.

That’s not 3 percent. That’s not one-third of a percent. That’s three-hundredths of a percent.

There are approximately 120,000 schools in the United States. If we use the term “school shooting” in the most capacious way, there have been 145 incidents since 2010. That means .12 percent of all schools in the United States have suffered the horror of a school shooting.


The Latest

Attention Must Be Paid

Attention Must Be Paid

Language, of course, is generally employed by human beings to distract or deceive. So there is much to be said for critical listening.