Disgraced sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson among those who recommended involuntary psychiatric evaluation
Last month, Kemberlee asked, What in the world is going on with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department?, and this week we learn that Broward Country school officials and at least one sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that the Stoneman Douglas High School shooter be involuntarily committed.
In an almost unbelievable twist, the sheriff’s deputy who recommended Nikolas Cruz be committed for psychological evaluation under the Baker Act is none other than school safety officer Scot Peterson. That’s right, the same Scot Peterson who was forced to resign after reports surfaced that he hid outside the school while Cruz carried out his bloody rampage unhindered.
It’s not clear from the reports why no action was taken to commit Cruz under the Baker Act.
Some school counselors and officials were so concerned about the mental stability of Nikolas Cruz, accused in last month’s Florida school massacre that they decided to have him forcibly committed more than a year before the shooting.
However, the recommendation was never acted upon.
Documents in the criminal case against Cruz show that school officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act for at least three days, according to the Associated Press.
The documents, which are part of Cruz’s criminal case in the shooting, show that he had written the word “kill” in a notebook, told a classmate that he wanted to buy a gun and use it, and had cut his arm supposedly in anger because he had broken up with a girlfriend. He also told another student he had drunk gasoline and was throwing up. Calls had even been made to the FBI about the possibility of Cruz using a gun at school.
. . . . There is no evidence Cruz was ever committed. Coincidentally, the school resource officer who recommended that Cruz be “Baker Acted” was Scot Peterson — the same Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred.
Unbelievable. And it gets worse, the school and Peterson were so worried about Cruz in 2016 that they established a “school safety plan” for him that included his being banned from practicing shooting with the JROTC and his not being permitted to carry a backpack on the school campus.
It has also been learned that psychiatrists recommended that Cruz be admitted to residential treatment back in 2013.
Eighteen months before Nikolas Cruz shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, staff were so worried about his fascination with guns that they banned him from practicing shooting skills with the JROTC, according to mental health records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
A safety plan created by the school for Cruz in September 2016 also prohibited him from carrying a backpack on campus.
. . . . The mental health records show counselors were sent to Cruz’s home multiple times in September 2016, the same month the Department of Children and Families conducted its own investigation following up on concerns from the school and from his family.
Other documents show that psychiatrists recommended placing Cruz in a residential treatment facility as early as 2013, the same year he and his brother learned they were adopted. He was 14 years old.
The details related about Cruz’s clearly disturbed (and disturbing) behavior are alarming, and it’s unclear why no action was taken when he talked about “having a gun and thinking about using it,” threatened to harm others, and wrote the word “kill” in a notebook after his mother refused to take him to get the state-issued id he needed to buy a gun.
The Sun Sentinel continues:
A psychiatric memo dated 2014 from the alternative Cross Creek School that Cruz attended in eighth grade describes him as “moody, impulsive, angry, attention seeking, annoys others on purpose and threatens to hurt others.” It describes him as having a strained relationship with his brother and indicates problems with Cruz’s behavior began in 2004, when he watched his father, Roger, die from a heart attack.
But the bulk of the documents focus on a one-week period in September 2016, when the Sheriff’s Office, DCF and mental health officials were investigating claims that Cruz posed, at least, a threat to himself.
Despite the repeated visits, neither the Broward Sheriff’s Office nor Henderson Behavioral Health, a mental health clinic in Davie that treated him for two years, ordered Cruz hospitalized for observation under the state’s Baker Act, which allows intervention when a person is deemed to be a danger to himself or others.
. . . . Five days later, the resource officer at Stoneman Douglas and two school counselors relayed an allegation that Cruz drank gasoline in a suicide attempt, cut himself and “that he had a gun at home and was thinking of using it.”
. . . . The school resource officer, a Broward sheriff’s deputy, promised to search Cruz’s home for a gun, according to the mental status assessment on Sept. 28, 2016. A sheriff’s report from the same date mentions no search for a gun, indicating only that Cruz wanted to buy one.
. . . . The next day, Jacobs, the first social worker, filed a report expressing school officials’ concern about Cruz’s desire to purchase a gun now that he was 18, and outlining the school’s decision to implement a “safety plan.” It was also noted that the JROTC program had banned Cruz from firing guns with the group during shooting practice.
The same day, a mental health counselor visited Cruz at his Parkland home because a guidance counselor was troubled that he wrote the word “kill” in a notebook because he was upset with his mother.
“I was angry then,” he told the counselor, Anna Del Barrio. “But I wouldn’t hurt my mom.”
Cruz told a school therapist that his argument with his mother was over her refusal to take him to get a state issued ID, which he would have needed to buy a gun.
But Lynda Cruz told Del Barrio that she had no worries about her son as a gun owner.
“I’m not concerned and I’m not afraid,” she said, according to Del Barrio’s report. “My son has pellet guns and he’s always respected the rules of where they can and can’t be used.”
This is on top of the many tips called in to (and ignored by) both the Broward Country Sheriff’s office and the FBI about Cruz’s desire to carry out a school shooting, his desire to kill people, and his reported affinity for ISIS.
Had all of this been followed-up on and Cruz involuntarily committed under the Baker Act, he would have found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to legally purchase a firearm under Florida law.
Fox 4 reported last month:
While the law was tightened in 2013 to restrict the mentally ill from purchasing guns, there are still a number of exceptions that ultimately give people with documented histories of mental health issues the right to purchase guns.
According to state law, while people institutionalized against their will, commonly known as the Baker Act, are prohibited from purchasing firearms, those who voluntarily commit themselves and stay on a voluntary status can obtain guns. In addition, if a doctor determines a person’s “dangerousness” is not imminent, Florida laws says they can buy guns.
Given Cruz’s history of erratic, violent behavior and threats of harm to himself and others, it seems unlikely he’d have been given the green light to buy a gun had he been involuntarily committed in 2016. But we’ll never know because existing federal, state, and local law and procedures were neither enforced nor followed, and 17 people paid for these institutional failures with their lives.
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