Broward County suspends second deputy over failures to respond to Parkland massacre

The deputy's defense is the wording in the agency's active-shooter policy states that officers "may" enter instead of "shall."
Image: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland
A message about grief counseling appears on the electronic signboard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb 15, 2018.Jonathan Drake / Reuters file

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By Farnoush Amiri and Associated Press

Another Florida deputy who responded to February’s Parkland high school massacre has been suspended.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday that Deputy Edward Eason had been placed on restricted duty, which means he must surrender his gun and badge. The announcement comes two weeks after the public safety commission that investigated the shooting revealed failures in law enforcement’s response.

Body camera footage contradicted the deputy’s report and showed that he delayed entering the building. The commission said former student Nikolas Cruz had already killed 17 and wounded 17 others by the time Eason arrived, but some people inside needed immediate help.

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, told NBC News that the Sheriff's Office has not informed Eason on the status of his case or provided him with a case number.

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"We're never saying our deputies are completely innocent, sometimes our members make mistakes, all we ask is for fair discipline," Bell said on Saturday.

Bell, who has been a long-time critic of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, believes that it was Israel's change in the wording in the department's active-shooter policy that is to blame for officers not rushing in.

The department's active-shooter policy, established prior to the shooting, states that deputies "may," rather than "shall," proceed into an active-shooter scene. Bell said that this vague language gave deputies license to stay outside.

"Words matter and in this case [Israel's] words in the policy change cost the lives of 17 people," Bell said.

Bell said the deputies association will be filing a grievance on Eason's behalf and called again for the removal of Israel from his post.

"You have to have the proper training and the proper training facility and you have to the proper policies that dictate the proper response," he said. "[Israel] is more worried about votes than he is about saving lives."

The Broward County Sheriff's Office did not respond to NBC News' request for comment on Saturday.

The sheriff’s captain who oversaw the initial response to the shooting recently resigned and the first sergeant to arrive was suspended.