The father of an 18-year-old murdered in the Parkland, Florida school massacre is striking out against multiple parties who he says allowed Nikolas Cruz to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle, killing and maiming dozens of students and employees.
Wrongful Death Suit Strikes Out At “Coward” Deputy
On Monday, April 30, 2018, Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cruz, Scot Peterson, the estate of Cruz’s late mother, a family who took Cruz in after his mother’s death and three mental health facilities, arguing that each defendant failed to protect his daughter.
Alongside the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, the father has also chosen to sue a number of parties who he believes share in the guilt for his son’s death. Scot Peterson, the school resource officer and Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy who remained outside of the school during the massacre, is accused of abrogating his duty to protect students.
Instead of intervening and attempting to save lives, Peterson “positioned himself out of harm’s way,” choosing to “cower[…] in a safe location between two concrete walls,” the father’s complaint reads. The lawsuit repeatedly contrasts the “coward” Peterson to other police officers who stormed the building a few minutes after Cruz had left, describing them as “real law enforcement officers.”
Disgraced Officer Hid From Harm, Father Says
The father’s fundamental argument is that Peterson, as the only trained professional within a reasonable distance, should have attempted to stop Cruz from murdering seventeen people, fourteen students and three school employees, while leaving seventeen others with severe injuries. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Pollack told reporters that Peterson is the “main target” of his lawsuit. “He could have stopped it. Could have saved my kid. Nobody should be able to not do their job, receive a pension and ride off into the sunset.”
Peterson denies any wrongdoing or negligence, saying he thought the shots were coming from outside the building, which is why he didn’t enter. The 54-year-old was immediately put on leave after the incident, then resigned.
Caregivers, Health Centers Failed To Manage Troubled Teen, Complaint Claims
While Peterson may be the main target, Pollack is also leveling claims of negligence against the estate of Cruz’s late mother, Lynda Cruz, and the Snead family, who were caring for Cruz at the time of the shooting.
Lynda Cruz, Pollack claims, failed to acknowledge the very real public health threat her son posed and neglected to help him find the mental health care he desperately needed. The Snead family, in a similar vein, allowed Cruz to live in a home with guns, despite his frequent violent outbursts.
A third family, the Deschamps, who took Cruz in before the Sneads, also seem to have looked the other way, reports suggest. After a particularly volatile fight, in which Cruz threatened to “get his gun and come back,” a Deschamp family member told Broward County officers that Cruz had “put the gun to others’ heads in the past.” The family declined to have Cruz arrested.
Three mental health facilities – Henderson Behavioral Health, Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health and South County Mental Health Center – have also been named as co-defendants. The health centers allegedly evaluated Cruz, but failed to properly assess his mental state.
Lawsuit: Authorities Missed Numerous Warning Signs
In his complaint, Pollack lists a series of events that he says should have been considered troubling warning signs in Cruz’s behavior prior to the massacre. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office received multiple tips about Cruz’s plans to become a “school shooter” between 2016 and 2017.
Cruz’s intentions appear to have been explicit and unrepentant. In 2016, the teen posted a picture of himself with several guns on Instagram, writing that he wanted to “shoot up” Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Miami Herald reports.
Responding to Cruz’s home, a deputy for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office found knives and a BB gun in the young man’s possession, information that was turned over to Peterson, the lawsuit claims.
Peterson Knew Of Danger, Father Alleges
Peterson also learned, Pollack says, that Cruz had attempted to kill himself by drinking gasoline, was cutting himself and desperately wanted to purchase a gun. The teen had also drawn swastikas on his backpack, the complaint continues.
In 2017, a user named “nikolas cruz” on YouTube posted a video expressing similar desires. FBI officials could not confirm the user’s true identity and dropped their investigation in September 2017. Five months later, the FBI received another call, this time from someone saying Cruz had “a desire to kill people,” but the report was never passed on to the agency’s Miami office.
Numerous civil lawsuits are likely to emerge in the wake of February 14th’s shocking events in Parkland, Florida. A number of families have already filed suit against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the school’s board.