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    Report: Officials Wanted Stoneman High Shooter Committed Under the Baker Act in 2016

    Report: Officials Wanted Stoneman High Shooter Committed Under the Baker Act in 2016

    Disgraced sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson among those who recommended involuntary psychiatric evaluation

    Last month, Kemberlee asked, What in the world is going on with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department?, and this week we learn that Broward Country school officials and at least one sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that the Stoneman Douglas High School shooter be involuntarily committed.

    In an almost unbelievable twist, the sheriff’s deputy who recommended Nikolas Cruz be committed for psychological evaluation under the Baker Act is none other than school safety officer Scot Peterson.  That’s right, the same Scot Peterson who was forced to resign after reports surfaced that he hid outside the school while Cruz carried out his bloody rampage unhindered.

    It’s not clear from the reports why no action was taken to commit Cruz under the Baker Act.

    Fox News reports:

    Some school counselors and officials were so concerned about the mental stability of Nikolas Cruz, accused in last month’s Florida school massacre that they decided to have him forcibly committed more than a year before the shooting.

    However, the recommendation was never acted upon.

    Documents in the criminal case against Cruz show that school officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act for at least three days, according to the Associated Press.

    The documents, which are part of Cruz’s criminal case in the shooting, show that he had written the word “kill” in a notebook, told a classmate that he wanted to buy a gun and use it, and had cut his arm supposedly in anger because he had broken up with a girlfriend. He also told another student he had drunk gasoline and was throwing up. Calls had even been made to the FBI about the possibility of Cruz using a gun at school.

    . . . . There is no evidence Cruz was ever committed. Coincidentally, the school resource officer who recommended that Cruz be “Baker Acted” was Scot Peterson — the same Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred.

    Unbelievable.  And it gets worse, the school and Peterson were so worried about Cruz in 2016 that they established a “school safety plan” for him that included his being banned from practicing shooting with the JROTC and his not being permitted to carry a backpack on the school campus.

    It has also been learned that psychiatrists recommended that Cruz be admitted to residential treatment back in 2013.

    The Sun Sentinel reports:

    Eighteen months before Nikolas Cruz shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, staff were so worried about his fascination with guns that they banned him from practicing shooting skills with the JROTC, according to mental health records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

    A safety plan created by the school for Cruz in September 2016 also prohibited him from carrying a backpack on campus.

    . . . . The mental health records show counselors were sent to Cruz’s home multiple times in September 2016, the same month the Department of Children and Families conducted its own investigation following up on concerns from the school and from his family.

    Other documents show that psychiatrists recommended placing Cruz in a residential treatment facility as early as 2013, the same year he and his brother learned they were adopted. He was 14 years old.

    The details related about Cruz’s clearly disturbed (and disturbing) behavior are alarming, and it’s unclear why no action was taken when he talked about “having a gun and thinking about using it,” threatened to harm others, and wrote the word “kill” in a notebook after his mother refused to take him to get the state-issued id he needed to buy a gun.

    The Sun Sentinel continues:

    A psychiatric memo dated 2014 from the alternative Cross Creek School that Cruz attended in eighth grade describes him as “moody, impulsive, angry, attention seeking, annoys others on purpose and threatens to hurt others.” It describes him as having a strained relationship with his brother and indicates problems with Cruz’s behavior began in 2004, when he watched his father, Roger, die from a heart attack.

    But the bulk of the documents focus on a one-week period in September 2016, when the Sheriff’s Office, DCF and mental health officials were investigating claims that Cruz posed, at least, a threat to himself.

    Despite the repeated visits, neither the Broward Sheriff’s Office nor Henderson Behavioral Health, a mental health clinic in Davie that treated him for two years, ordered Cruz hospitalized for observation under the state’s Baker Act, which allows intervention when a person is deemed to be a danger to himself or others.

    . . . . Five days later, the resource officer at Stoneman Douglas and two school counselors relayed an allegation that Cruz drank gasoline in a suicide attempt, cut himself and “that he had a gun at home and was thinking of using it.”

    . . . . The school resource officer, a Broward sheriff’s deputy, promised to search Cruz’s home for a gun, according to the mental status assessment on Sept. 28, 2016. A sheriff’s report from the same date mentions no search for a gun, indicating only that Cruz wanted to buy one.

    . . . . The next day, Jacobs, the first social worker, filed a report expressing school officials’ concern about Cruz’s desire to purchase a gun now that he was 18, and outlining the school’s decision to implement a “safety plan.” It was also noted that the JROTC program had banned Cruz from firing guns with the group during shooting practice.

    The same day, a mental health counselor visited Cruz at his Parkland home because a guidance counselor was troubled that he wrote the word “kill” in a notebook because he was upset with his mother.

    “I was angry then,” he told the counselor, Anna Del Barrio. “But I wouldn’t hurt my mom.”

    Cruz told a school therapist that his argument with his mother was over her refusal to take him to get a state issued ID, which he would have needed to buy a gun.

    But Lynda Cruz told Del Barrio that she had no worries about her son as a gun owner.

    “I’m not concerned and I’m not afraid,” she said, according to Del Barrio’s report. “My son has pellet guns and he’s always respected the rules of where they can and can’t be used.”

    This is on top of the many tips called in to (and ignored by) both the Broward Country Sheriff’s office and the FBI about Cruz’s desire to carry out a school shooting, his desire to kill people, and his reported affinity for ISIS.

    Had all of this been followed-up on and Cruz involuntarily committed under the Baker Act, he would have found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to legally purchase a firearm under Florida law.

    Fox 4 reported last month:

    While the law was tightened in 2013 to restrict the mentally ill from purchasing guns, there are still a number of exceptions that ultimately give people with documented histories of mental health issues the right to purchase guns.

    According to state law, while people institutionalized against their will, commonly known as the Baker Act, are prohibited from purchasing firearms, those who voluntarily commit themselves and stay on a voluntary status can obtain guns. In addition, if a doctor determines a person’s “dangerousness” is not imminent, Florida laws says they can buy guns.

    Given Cruz’s history of erratic, violent behavior and threats of harm to himself and others, it seems unlikely he’d have been given the green light to buy a gun had he been involuntarily committed in 2016.  But we’ll never know because existing federal, state, and local law and procedures were neither enforced nor followed, and 17 people paid for these institutional failures with their lives.


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    terrence22 | March 19, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    But, but, BUT NRA, NRA, NRA russia?

    This whole finger-pointing exercise re: the Parkland florida schools shooting makes me crazy. First it is the failure of the Sheriff’s Office. Then it is fault of the weapon used and the NRA. Then it is back to being the fault of all kinds of government agencies because they were not strict enough with children who misbehave. Then it was back to a failure of the Sheriff;s Office. Now it is a failure of a whole bunch of people who did not involuntarily commit Cruz. But, people simply REFUSE to acknowledge that the biggest failure was that the security at the school was so inadequate as to be non-existent. Why? Will somebody PLEASE explain why no one seems to care if there is any security at schools in this country? We keep having these incidents and we hear the calls for gun control, for strengthening background checks, for expanding involuntary commitments far beyond reasonable parameters. But NOBODY is screaming, demanding or even whispering about increasing the physical security of schools. Why? The abhorrence for increasing security is almost psychotic. The arguments against strengthening security run the gamut from it can’t be done [but we know that it can be done], to it will make the schools look like a prison [whoop-dee-doo] to it will emotionally scar the children [as if being mildly traumatized is somehow worse than being DEAD]. Please, tell me why we can not pursue the most effective means of protecting our children while they are in school.

    No, I’ll tell you why. Because all of these people KNOW that if there had been effective access control and an effective armed security force in place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, we would not be discussing this at all. They know it and they do not want to admit to themselves that they did nothing to prevent this. It is diversion.

    Can we just have an honest discussion of the BEST way to protect children while they are in school? Or are we going to keep jumping around ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room?

    “Makes me crazy”

    Well FWIW, I agree with your line of reasoning about intervening on the basis of mental illness.

    Sounds simple in hindsight but in reality there would be way too many false positives. Even worse imagine being one of those false positives

      Mac45 in reply to Fen. | March 20, 2018 at 11:20 am

      THAT is all you took away from my post?

      Should we, or should we no, harden the security at our public schools? And, if not, why not? Want to weigh in on that point?

        Fen in reply to Mac45. | March 21, 2018 at 5:17 am


        1. That’s not all that I took away from your post. But I only spotlighted my agreement on your part about screening for mental illness because it appeared there was some actual debate here on the subject, dispute that you appeared to find frustrating. So I focused on that portion to back you up.

        2. as for hardening security in schools, I would direct you toward Larry Correra’s excellent article – An Opinion on Gun Control. I know firearms, but he is a subject matter expert. I agree with everything and his article 100%. But in particular, his ideas about arming school teachers:

        The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5. The reason is simple. The armed civilians are there when it started.

        The teachers are there already. The school staff is there already. Their reaction time is measured in seconds, not minutes. They can serve as your immediate violent response. Best case scenario, they engage and stop the attacker, or it bursts his fantasy bubble and he commits suicide. Worst case scenario, the armed staff provides a distraction, and while he’s concentrating on killing them, he’s not killing more children.

        But teachers aren’t as trained as police officers! True, yet totally irrelevant. The teacher doesn’t need to be a SWAT cop or Navy SEAL. They need to be speed bumps.

        But this leads to the inevitable shrieking and straw man arguments about guns in the classroom, and then the pacifistic minded who simply can’t comprehend themselves being mandated to carry a gun, or those that believe teachers are all too incompetent and can’t be trusted. Let me address both at one time.

        Don’t make it mandatory. In my experience, the only people who are worth a darn with a gun are the ones who wish to take responsibility and carry a gun. Make it voluntary. It is rather simple. Just make it so that your state’s concealed weapons laws trump the Federal Gun Free School Zones act. All that means is that teachers who voluntarily decide to get a concealed weapons permit are capable of carrying their guns at work. Easy. Simple. Cheap. Available now.

        Then they’ll say that this is impossible, and give me all sorts of terrible worst case scenarios about all of the horrors that will happen with a gun in the classroom… No problem, because this has happened before. In fact, my state laws allow for somebody with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun in a school right now. Yes. Utah has armed teachers. We have for several years now.

        When I was a CCW instructor, I decided that I wanted more teachers with skin in the game, so I started a program where I would teach anybody who worked at a school for free. No charge. Zip. They still had to pay the state for their background check and fingerprints, but all the instruction was free. I wanted more armed teachers in my state.

        I personally taught several hundred teachers. I quickly discovered that pretty much every single school in my state had at least one competent, capable, smart, willing individual. Some schools had more. I had one high school where the principal, three teachers, and a janitor showed up for class. They had just had an event where there had been a threat against the school and their resource officer had turned up AWOL. This had been a wake up call for this principal that they were on their own, and he had taken it upon himself to talk to his teachers to find the willing and capable. Good for them.”

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