Were medics denied access to treat students inside Stoneman Douglas High School?

Mica Soellner
By Mica Soellner March 5, 2018

A story circulating around the Internet claims that there was an unnecessary delay in getting emergency medical service into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students.

"Florida EMTs say Broward Sheriff blocked medics from treating gunned down students inside school," read the headline on Feb. 26, 2018, by a Philadelphia-based website, True Pundit.

The post was flagged on Facebook as being potentially fabricated, as part of the social media website’s efforts to combat online hoaxes.

At present, we are unable corroborate or debunk the entirety of this account.

The law enforcement response to the mass shooting is under investigation by multiple agencies, so we don’t yet have a full account of the actions by emergency responders on Feb. 14. Many of the claims that emergency medical workers were blocked from the scene are based on unnamed city officials who spoke to Fox News and an unnamed first-responder who spoke to local Miami news station WSVN reporter Brian Entin.

Because we cannot verify those details, we cannot rate this claim on the Truth-O-Meter. But here’s what we know.

The Fox News story refers to three unnamed "high-ranking Florida officials close to law enforcement" who said that the emergency response at Stoneman Douglas went against EMS training, where teams typically go into emergency stuations behind police as soon as possible. Instead, they claimed there was a delay in getting into the school following requests by first-responders.

One official had said that the request to enter the building was denied by Broward Sheriff’s Office, who was in charge of the scene at the time.

A medical first-responder told a local Miami journalist, Brian Entin, that medical personnel had asked to enter the school, but law enforcement would not allow them to enter. The source, who asked to be remained anonymous, told Entin that based on everything he had learned in training, the police and deputy had responded incorrectly.

The fact that paramedics were told not to enter the school is backed up by one official account, but it’s unclear if that decision violated policy.

On Feb. 26, the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department, which was in charge of providing medical response, issued a press release addressing this point. Coral Springs said it asked the Broward Sheriff’s Office to enter the school with police officers in "an attempt to triage, treat and evacuate victims."

"That request was denied because this type of response was not appropriate at that time, as the location of the shooter was not known," the press release says. "During the initial phases of this operation, we could not confirm that the suspect fled, had been detained or was confirmed deceased. Although we will not speak to the actions of the Broward Sheriff’s Office commanders, we are confident that this risk of danger to our paramedics was used in their decision making process."

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel appeared on CNN’s State of the Union where he was questioned about the decision to hold medical responders back.

Israel’s response is not entirely clear. Israel says, "Medical people wouldn't go inside until you're sure that they're not going to get killed inside," but he also denied that the Sheriff’s Office denied people from going inside.

Israel told host Jake Tapper that he was unaware of the WSVN report and that he would like to interview the source the station quoted.

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Were medics denied access to treat students inside Stoneman Douglas High School?