Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Parkland mourns amid political fallout

WARNING SIGNS:As survivors of the Florida school shooting prepared to go back to class tomorrow, 70 state representatives signed a call to suspend the county’s sheriff


Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, center, receives a hug as she and other officials mourn, as students and parents arrive for voluntary campus orientation at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Sunsay.

Photo: Reuters

The line of students and their parents wrapped around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, several thousand people entering the campus for the first time since a gunman took 17 lives nearly two weeks ago.

They on Sunday walked solemnly but resolutely through gates that had been locked to all but law enforcement and school officials since the Valentine’s Day shooting, set to collect backpacks and other belongings left behind as they fled the massacre.

To enter, they passed within feet of the three-story building where the shooting happened. It is now cordoned off by a chain link fence that was covered with banners from other schools showing their solidarity.

“Just seeing the building was scary,” freshman Francesca Lozano said as she exited the school with her mom.

The 3,200-student school is to reopen tomorrow and administrators said families would get phone calls about details later. Sunday was a day to ease into the return.

“Two of my best friends aren’t here anymore,” said first-year student Sammy Cooper, who picked up the book bag he had dropped as he saw the accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, begin shooting. “But I’m definitely going to school Wednesday. I will handle it.”

Eleventh-grade student Sebastian Pena said that the gathering was a chance to see friends and his teachers, and to “come together as a family.”

The students were greeted by 17 people dressed in white costumes as angels standing beside a makeshift memorial outside the school.

Organizer Terry Decarlo said the costumes are sent to every mass shooting and disaster so that the survivors “know angels are looking over them and protecting them.”

Many of those dressed as angels at the school on Sunday were survivors of the 2016 mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub Pulse, where 49 people died.

Earlier on Sunday, Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office said he had asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen to investigate the law-enforcement response to the shooting.

The agency confirmed that it would begin the probe immediately.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has come under withering scrutiny after the revelation last week that deputy Scot Peterson, the school’s assigned security officer, was nearby when the shooting began, but did not go into the building to confront Cruz during the attack.

The sheriff’s office is also facing a backlash for apparently mishandling some of 18 tipster calls related to the suspected shooter. The tips were among a series of what authorities now describe as the clearest missed warning signs that Cruz, who had a history of disturbing behavior, posed a serious threat.

Florida State Representative Bill Hager, a Republican lawmaker, has called on Scott to remove Israel from office because of the missed red flags.

Israel vowed not to resign, saying that Hager’s letter “was full of misinformation” and “shameful, politically motivated.”

Florida House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran on Sunday stepped up the pressure, calling on Scott to suspend the sheriff.

“In the years leading up to this unspeakable tragedy, Sheriff Israel, his deputies and staff ignored repeated warning signs about the violent, erratic, threatening and antisocial behavior of Nikolas Jacob Cruz,” Corcoran said in a letter signed by more than 70 lawmakers.

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