POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Nearly five years after a shooting that killed 17 students and school staff members in Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd wants to make sure people realize it could happen anywhere.
“There will be another one. So the question is how do we mitigate the opportunity and eliminate the threat?” he said to a crowd of public safety, education and healthcare leaders in an auditorium at the Polk State College Center for Public Safety Thursday.
The event, sponsored by Polk Vision, was one of the first times Judd made his presentation on the 2018 Parkland shooting available to members of the general public.
“When seconds count, minutes don’t matter,” said Judd, who serves on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
Starting with the Parkland shooter arriving on campus in an Uber the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, to when he blended in by running away after the shootings, the sheriff outlined split-second decisions that were made at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“He does not call a code red. This is the fourth campus monitor who does not call a code red,” he said, referring to a school staff member who encountered the shooter.
The shooter entered the building through an open door.
But the sheriff said doors kept people safe on the second floor after people heard gunfire.
“They were treating it as an active shooter event and the doors were locked,” Judd said.
The sheriff also touted his sentinel program which evolved into the state’s guardian program, which allows trained individuals to be armed on school campuses.
This week, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission discussed 911 communication issues.
In Polk County, the sheriff talked about the importance of communication between mental health counselors, schools and law enforcement.
“They’d give [the shooter] to this mental health provider and then this mental health provider and then this mental health provider for years and nobody’s talking to each other,” said Sheriff Judd.
Ryan Petty lost his 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, in the shooting that day.
He has since moved to Polk County and serves on the MSD commission.
He said the commission spent two hours this week discussing how to improve communication.
“It’s called behavioral threat assessment and management. It’s how the Secret Service protects the President and other elected officials. We’re using that methodology here in the state of Florida to protect our schools,” said Petty.
Petty sat through the presentation Thursday, one he has seen before.
It includes pictures of the victims, video of the shooter walking through the school and a disturbing video the shooter recorded before the shooting.
“I’m never quite sure how I’m going to react. Today I shed a few tears thinking about my daughter and the other victims,” said Petty.
This year, Petty sat through the shooter’s sentencing trial, one in which his life was spared.
He also endures the information shared in the commission meetings.
But he said he does it because there’s still work to do to make schools safe.
“Every moment I can spend working on that problem, trying to solve that problem, I’m honoring my daughter,” said Petty.
Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Frederick Heid also spoke at the Polk Vision event Thursday.
“This is the one thing that keeps you awake at night because it’s the one thing, that you go home every night and you pray that we did everything we possibly could,” said Heid.
This year, the school district started random searches of students’ bags.
He said the district is also looking into other systems that can detect somebody who has a gun without having to search them.
“We can tell by your body movements, your facial expressions, certain things. This is all military stuff that’s now becoming available to school systems. We’re looking at those things. How do we harden our campuses? Making sure that our front windows are bulletproof with the appropriate tinting,” he said.
Judd said his office set up a real-time crime center to address potential issues as they arise, including students making threatening statements.
“We’re not passing that along to the school officials in the morning when they come to work. Our real-time crime center’s sending that data to our people and we’re knocking on the door. If we get it at 10, we’re drive time to his house,” said the sheriff.
It’s all an effort to get to a person before they become an active shooter.
“Killers don’t walk around with their agenda stapled to their shirt but they do display behaviors, actions and words,” Judd said.