Commission investigates Florida high school massacre

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FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, a family reunites following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A commission tasked with investigating government actions surrounding the Florida high school massacre and the state’s other mass shootings is set to hold its first meeting, Tuesday, April 24. (John […]

The chairman of a commission examining the Florida high school massacre told his members Tuesday that they need to push aside ideology and base their final report solely on whatever facts they uncover.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the 16 commission members as they began their first meeting that their goal should be to prevent any more mass shootings like the one Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A gunman killed 14 students and three staff members, and wounded 17 during a six-minute spree inside the three-story freshman building. Other students hid in fear inside their classrooms or fled to the streets.

“Nobody else should have to endure what those children had to endure that day,” Gualtieri said.

The commission also was scheduled on Tuesday to receive an updated report on the investigation from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The commission will examine the department’s conduct before, during and after the shooting. Deputy Scot Peterson, the school’s security officer, retired after Sheriff Scott Israel criticized him and planned to suspend him for not rushing into the building to confront and kill the suspect, whom deputies have identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student. The commission also will consider the conduct of other deputies who arrived at the school but remained outside.

School counselors and mental health officials will appear before the commission to talk about their contact with Cruz. He spent time at a school for emotionally and mentally disturbed students before being allowed to transfer briefly to Stoneman Douglas. He was kicked out later. Cruz’s attorneys have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The commission also will examine other Florida mass shootings, including a 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that killed 49, and a 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that left six dead.

Commission members include law enforcement administrators from throughout Florida, education officials, a state senator, a mental health counselor and the fathers of victims Alex Schachter, Meadow Pollack and Aliana Petty. The members were appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

The commission’s final report is due Jan. 1.

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