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Wall Street Journal / News - Politics

In Florida Shooting, Law Enforcement Took 11 Minutes to Enter Parkland School

A chronology, along with newly released audio calls, provides the most detailed account so far of the frantic and confusing scene at the school.

Sheriff vehicles at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 following the shooting. Photo: michele eve sandberg/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images


Arian Campo-Flores and

Jon Kamp


From the time accused gunman Nikolas Cruz started shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 11 minutes passed before law-enforcement officers entered the building where the massacre unfolded, according to a timeline released Thursday.

Even after Mr. Cruz allegedly left the scene where 17 people were killed, it took nearly five minutes more for law-enforcement personnel to enter the building, according to the timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

The chronology, along with newly released audio calls, provides the most detailed account so far of the frantic and confusing scene at the school on Feb. 14. It is based on a review of more than 150 calls to 911, security video footage and Broward sheriff and Coral Springs radio communications.

The Broward sheriff’s office is facing scrutiny over its response to the shooting as well as to prior warnings about Mr. Cruz, whose disturbing behavior had been reported to various authorities. Last month, Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the sheriff’s handling of the case.

On Wednesday, a Broward County, Fla., grand jury indicted Mr. Cruz, charging him with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. The shooting—one of the worst in U.S. history—has prompted a national debate on gun control, mental illness and school safety.

According to court filing Thursday, Mr. Cruz withdrew his prior not-guilty plea and now stands mute to the charges. The one-page filing from his attorney says the written plea of not guilty was filed prematurely before formal charges were filed.

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In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, student survivors have started a movement for greater gun control. Two students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School explain how social media, crowdfunding and political activism have helped spread their message. Photo: Getty Images

The 911 calls began a minute and eight seconds after the shooting started, according to the timeline released by the Broward sheriff’s office. Forty-five seconds later, Scot Peterson, the deputy assigned to the school, said over a radio channel: “Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers, I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired—1200 building.”

The timeline sheds more light on the actions of Mr. Peterson, who has been criticized for failing to enter Building 12, where the shooting took place. He repeatedly mentioned the building in the radio communication included in the timeline. “We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200 building,” he said.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has said Mr. Peterson should have confronted the shooter. Mr. Peterson resigned after Sheriff Israel suspended him without pay pending an internal investigation, the sheriff said.

In a statement issued by his attorney last week, Mr. Peterson defended himself by saying he believed shots were being fired from outside the building and took up his position outside consistent with his training.

On the radio logs, various officers discussed injured students found outside, uncertainty about where the shooter was and creating a perimeter. The Broward sheriff’s office said its radio systems were overwhelmed and some communication may have been impaired. The sheriff’s office and Coral Springs police were unable to merge their systems and communicate over a common channel before law-enforcement officers entered the school building.

The sheriff’s office said the timeline is based on information they have received and analyzed to date, and could change.

Write to Arian Campo-Flores at arian.campo-flores@wsj.com and Jon Kamp at jon.kamp@wsj.com