‘This is a shot at specific law enforcement officials who failed the students on that particular day. Law enforcement choked and the goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that this never happens again. If they choke and they cause people to die, they will have to face the music.’ That music, according to attorney Solomon Radner, is a lawsuit filed by survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February.
The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court takes aim at Broward County Sheriff’s officers who either oversaw operations at the school or were on-site that day, claiming they failed to stop shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Eight Minutes of Hell
While none of the 15 student-plaintiffs were physically injured in the shooting, they are alleging that the officers’ incompetence, poor training, and inaction caused “at least, psychological injury and trauma.” During what the lawsuit referred to as “eight minutes of hell,” it claims “failures by numerous government actors, including law enforcement, strongly continued to Shooter’s ability to carry out this horrific attack without which this attack could not have happened.”
Specifically, the suit focuses on several Broward County officers:
School Resources Deputy Scot Peterson: Allegedly stood outside despite hearing gunfire from within (and has also been sued by the family of one of the victims);
Sheriff’s Commander Jan Jordan: Allegedly “refused to allow emergency personnel to enter the school, even into the safe areas, to save lives”;
Schools Guard Andrew Medina: Allegedly recognized Cruz as “a known danger” but did not stop or question him or lock down the school, instead radioing ahead to another monitor; and
Three Other Unidentified Law Enforcement Officers: Allegedly stood outside the building with Peterson, guns drawn, but also didn’t go in.
No Legal Duty to Protect
As egregious as those accusations may sound, suing the police is not easy. Unfortunately, even though police are tasked to protect and serve, courts have cited a “fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.” Police, therefore have no legal duty to protect you and no legal duty to investigate crimes.
Medina’s attorney, Russell Williams, seemed to argue as much, telling the Sun-Sentinel that Medina is “immune from prosecution, including civil action, as an individual unless the conduct at issue was committed with ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent. There’s no way any expert is going to get on the stand and testify to that.”
The shooting survivors may face an uphill battle in this lawsuit, but they’ve shown the willingness to fight before.