FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The students, their faces blurred, run silently from the building at a Florida high school where their classmates are being slaughtered. A staff member, his entire body pixilated, rushes up in a golf cart and heads inside. The deputy assigned to the school takes cover, never entering. Other officers rush in, assault rifles and handguns at the ready.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office released videos Wednesday from five cameras surrounding the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 14 students and three staff members died Feb. 14 during the first three minutes of a shooting rampage. The release came hours after the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear a motion from the Broward school board seeking to block it.
The silent videos give a disjointed view of what was going on outside the three-story freshman building, where prosecutors say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was gunning down students and staff at his former school, using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle sneaked into the building inside a bag. According to authorities, he had arrived in an Uber about 20 minutes before school was set to end, assembled his gun in a stairwell and then methodically went from floor one to two to three. Prosecutors say he fired at anyone in his path and into classrooms through glass in the doors.
The cameras are stationary, posted near rooflines and aimed at spots around the freshman building.
The videos open minutes before the massacre begins. Students walk through casually on a Valentine’s Day afternoon.
Then the first signs of trouble show up.
At 2:22 p.m., about the time the first shots were fired, a student in one video glances toward the building. Soon, in a video that was released previously, Broward sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson races up in a golf cart in an area south of the building. He draws his handgun and, according to previously released records, he radioed dispatchers that shots were being fired inside the freshman building. But he never goes inside. He later tells investigators he wasn’t sure where the shots were coming from. He retires once his actions come under criticism.
At 2:23 p.m., another camera shows a pixilated image of a staff member in a golf cart rushing to the building, hopping off and going toward an unseen door. The actions match reports of coach Aaron Feis, who was gunned down while protecting students.
Over the next 10 minutes, cameras show students running from the building as officers, some in armor and others not, hurrying inside while others can be seen taking cover behind cars and other objects.
In the background, the red flashing lights of paramedics and ambulances begin arriving.
Authorities say that by the time officers ran into the building, Cruz had fled after first trying to gun down students from a third-floor window but the hurricane-proof glass fragmented the bullets. He dropped his weapon and melded in with students because of the maroon Stoneman Douglas shirt he wore. He had been kicked out a year before.
He was arrested about an hour later walking alone about a mile from the school. His attorneys have said he would plead guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.