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Florida shooting first responders describe harrowing day

CNN logo CNN 2/25/2018 By Faith Karimi, CNN
Florida school shooting officer brought to tears sot_00000529.jpg © Provided by CNN Florida school shooting officer brought to tears sot_00000529.jpg

As more details emerge on the Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead, some of the officers who rushed to the scene are sharing their accounts of the harrowing day.

One of those officers, Chris Crawford of the Coral Springs Police Department, said he was on patrol at a nearby mall when he heard reports of the school shooting.

He jumped into his car and sped toward Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, lights and sirens on, driving at 100 mph, he said at a news conference Friday.

When he arrived, he took his rifle and raced toward the site of most of the carnage. There, he found other officers tending to injured students and joined them, applying gauze to students' wounds to stop the bleeding, he said.

"We are all issued combat gauze -- which is basically a piece of gauze with a clotting agent inside of it that you stuff inside wounds," he said.

After paramedics arrived, the former Marine rushed to Building 12, the epicenter of the shooting, where he was joined by officers from his department and the Broward County Sheriff's Office, he said.

The building was riddled with bullet holes, with shell casings scattered all over. Instead of smoke alarms and screaming, there was silence and victims with gunshot wounds in the hallways.

Students and teachers were still holed up in classrooms and storage rooms, too terrified to leave, he said.

In some of the classes, students and teachers had called 911. But they were afraid to speak for fear of drawing the shooter's attention, so dispatchers on the other end just listened to their breathing and other signs of life.

"You just have to be quiet, that's OK. As long as I can hear you breathing," Kathy Liriano of the Coral Springs Police and Fire Communications said she told the callers. 

'It was bad as you can imagine, times 10'

Crawford started knocking on classroom doors.

"The first two classes were [relieved at the officer's arrival], the third class...I knocked on the door and told them I'm Coral Springs Police. They said they were not going to open the door. I had to negotiate with them to come out. They made me slide my ID under the door. I could hear more and more desks get pushed up the door," he said.

He said if he'd had his phone, he'd have asked one of the students to FaceTime him.

"They started asking me questions like what my ID number was ... stuff that was on our IDs."

Crawford said he wished he could have helped more students.

"It was awful -- it was bad as you can imagine, times 10," he said. "... Every time I turned around, there was another officer with (the victims) blood all over them. It was horrendous. ... I have a 2-year-old. I don't want to send him to school."

Coral Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich's wife and his son were at the school when the shooting started. His wife works at the school and his son is a student there.

Even though he was off duty, Heinrich raced to the school, where he helped care for wounded students. His wife and son made it out, "by the grace of God," he said.

"It was surreal," Heinrich said. "You never hope it would happen and it did."

The officers said at the time they were helping students, the shooter had left the scene.

The Coral Springs officers detailed their experiences as reports emerged that the high school's resource officer, Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson, who was armed, never entered the building as Cruz was killing people.

Peterson resigned following his suspension Thursday, and an internal investigation is pending.

When Coral Springs police officers arrived at the school, many officers were surprised to find the armed school resource officer, along with three other sheriff's deputies, had not entered the building, sources tell CNN.

Sources cautioned thattapes are under review and official accounts could ultimately differ from recollections of officers on the scene.

The Broward Sheriff's Office said it is investigating reports that the three additional deputies didn't attempt to enter the school after the shooting started.

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