Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

Armed teachers mooted at US school

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FORT LAUDERDALE: The Florida high school where a former student shot and killed 17 people with an assault-type rifle is reopening for teachers on Friday as the community grappled with word that the armed officer on campus had done nothing to stop the shooter.

That failure, plus reports of a delay in security camera footage scanned by responding police and several records indicating that the 19-year-old suspect had displayed behavioura­l troubles for years added to what the Florida House speaker described as an “abject breakdown at all levels”.

The Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has reignited national debate over gun laws and school safety, including proposals by President Donald Trump and others to designate more people, including trained teachers, to carry arms on school grounds.

Gun-control

advocates have redoubled calls for bans or further restrictio­ns on assault rifles.

The school resource officer on February 14 took up a position viewing the western entrance of that building for more than four minutes after the shooting started, but “he never went in”, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference. The shooting lasted about six minutes.

The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under investigat­ion, then chose to resign, Israel said. When asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said he should have “gone in, addressed the killer, killed the killer”.

The sheriff said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words, these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals, I’ve been to the vigils, there are no words”.

A telephone message left at a listing for Peterson by The Associated Press wasn’t returned. An AP reporter who went to Peterson’s home in a suburb of West Palm Beach saw lights on and cars in the driveway, but no one answered the door during an attempt to seek comment.

Meanwhile, new informatio­n has emerged that there was a communicat­ion issue between the person reviewing the school’s security system footage and officers who responded to the school.

Coral Springs police chief Tony Pustizzi said at a news conference on Thursday that the footage being reviewed was 20 minutes old, so the responding officers were hearing that the shooter was in a certain place while officers already in that location were saying that wasn’t the case. Pustizzi said the confusion hadn’t put anyone in danger.

Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder and has admitted the attack, authoritie­s have said.

Cruz owned a collection of weapons. Defence attorneys, state records and people who knew him have described troubling incidents going back years.

Broward County incident reports show that unidentifi­ed callers contacted authoritie­s with concerns about Cruz in February 2016 and November 2017. The first caller said they had third-hand informatio­n that Cruz planned to shoot up the school. The informatio­n was forwarded to the Stoneman Douglas resource officer. The second caller said Cruz was collecting guns and knives and believed “he could be a school shooter in the making”.

Also in November 2017, Cruz was involved in a fight with the adult son of a woman he was staying with shortly after his mother died, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report.

On November 28, a 22-year-old man at the Lake Worth home told the responding deputy the he tried to calm down Cruz, who had been punching holes in walls and breaking objects, but Cruz hit him in the jaw and the man hit Cruz back.

The deputy found Cruz a short time later at a nearby park. Cruz told the deputy he had been angry because he misplaced a photo of his recently deceased mother and he apologised for losing his temper.

Politician­s under pressure to tighten gun laws in response to the mass shooting floated various plans on Thursday, but most fell short of reforms demanded by student activists who converged on Wednesday on Florida’s Capitol.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said on Thursday night that his chamber was going to recommend creating a special commission to investigat­e the “abject breakdown at all levels” that had led to the shooting deaths. The Republican said the commission, likely be led by a parent of one of the slain children, would have subpoena power.

Corcoran said the news about the resource officer’s failure to respond did not dissuade him from moving ahead with what he was calling the “marshal” plan to let local law-enforcemen­t officials train and deputise someone at the school who would be authorised to carry a gun.

State senator Bill Galvano, who is helping craft a bill in response to the shooting deaths, insisted the idea was not the same as arming teachers. He said the programme would be optional and the deputised person would have to be trained by local law enforcemen­t agencies. – AP/African News Agency (ANA)

 ?? PICTURE: AP ?? Florida Governor Rick Scott lays out his school safety proposal during a press conference at the Florida Capitol in Tallahasse­e.
PICTURE: AP Florida Governor Rick Scott lays out his school safety proposal during a press conference at the Florida Capitol in Tallahasse­e.

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