Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Two deputies who responded to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February have been placed on paid administrative leave, but have not been provided with a reason for their suspensions, according to the deputy union.
Broward Sheriff’s Sergeant Brian Miller was placed on restrictive duty on Nov. 20, and the department suspended Deputy Edward Eason on Friday.
“We still don’t know why,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association President Jeff Bell told Blue Lives Matter on Monday. “Nor do we have a case number from [internal affairs], if an investigation has been opened.”
Bell did not dispute arguments that the Broward Sheriff’s Office made mistakes during their response to the Feb. 14 shooting, which left 17 students and faculty dead and 17 more students wounded.
“Our guys are not perfect,” Bell told Blue Lives Matter. “But there are obviously two different sets of standards being used.”
Although Deputy Eason and Sgt. Miller have been suspended, Broward Sheriff’s Captain Jan Jordan was allowed to retire, Bell pointed out.
Even without the department providing specific details with regards to the suspensions, Bell said the union has a pretty good idea of what they’re about, the Sun Sentinel reported.
He described the department’s decision to suspend Deputy Eason and Sgt. Miller as a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School Public Safety Commission’s ongoing review of the shooting.
The state panel has repeatedly blasted law enforcement’s response to the active shooter incident.
“Based on the information provided at this month’s MSD Safety Commission meeting, [Broward] Sheriff Scott Israel requested an internal review of the actions Eason took on Feb. 14,” sheriff’s office spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright, told the Sun Sentinel.
Investigation by the commission revealed that Sgt. Miller was, in fact, the first supervisor to arrive on the scene and should have taken the role of incident commander.
However, evidence presented to the commissioners showed that Sgt. Miller did nothing, the Miami Herald reported.
“He sat up on Holmberg Road for 10 minutes,” Commission Chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “He heard gunshots and he didn’t move. He never got on the radio…He didn’t act.”
Deputy Eason arrived at the school approximately three-and-one-half minutes after Nikolas Cruz opened fire on his former classmates, but headed away from the building where the shooting occurred, the Miami Herald reported.
The 18-year veteran of the force then put on his vest and adjusted his body camera.
Deputy Eason later told investigators that he didn’t know which building the gunfire was coming from, but bodycam footage showed him pointing and telling people the shots were coming from the freshman building.
In February of 2016, Deputy Eason also received a tip that Cruz was threatening to carry out an armed attack at a school over social media, the Sun Sentinel reported.
He never completed an official report about the tip, and was suspended for three days as a result.
“Obviously the agency wants to target the low-lying fruit, by targeting the deputies and sergeants,” he told the Sun Sentinel.
“The deputies are being made the fall guys,” Bell added, according to the Miami Herald. “[Broward Sheriff Scott Israel] is only going after the deputies and the sergeants, but he allowed Capt. Jordan to resign…There is no accountability of any member of the command staff.”
“We’re not saying that every one of our members is innocent of every allegation; we’re not, we’ve never said that,” Bell told the Sun Sentinel. “We’re asking for fair and equal discipline for all members of the sheriff’s office.”
Capt. Jordan, a 20-year veteran of the force, retired from the department on Nov. 20, after the state commission called her “ineffective” during the active shooter incident.
Capt. Jordan took on the role of incident commander upon arrival at the high school, but failed to send deputies into the 1200 building where the gunman was still on his shooting spree, the Miami Herald reported.
Instead, she told them to set up a perimeter and continued to ask whether the students had been evacuated, as if she had no understanding of a lockdown.
Capt. Jordan did not follow the sheriff’s department’s active shooter training protocols, the commission determined.
“There are other [first responders] who described Capt. Jordan as being over her head,” commission chairman Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during the meeting.
On May 31, Coral Springs Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Michael McNally released a special report that detailed how Capt. Jordan prevented paramedics from getting to the victims inside the school.
According to the report, Chief McNally asked Capt. Jordan six times for permission to send in specialized teams of police officers and paramedics to rescue students, the Miami Herald reported.
All six times, the captain denied his request, and said she needed to get permission.
Statements included in the incident report demonstrate she did not have the authority to actually act as the incident commander on the scene of the shooting.
Chief McNally, in his report, claimed the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) command post was “severely dysfunctional,” the Miami Herald reported.
“The command post was inundated with too many people and made it impossible to establish and function,” Chief McNally wrote.
By the time Capt. Jordan deemed the school building safe for medics to enter, they were no longer needed – all of the victims had either been evacuated by police, or they were dead, the Sun Sentinel reported.