The Associated Press reports that School Resource Officer Scot Peterson and two high school counselors wanted to involuntary commit Nikolas Cruz for a mental health evaluation in 2016. Had he undergone the commitment he likely would not have been able to purchase a gun.
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.
The documents were provided by a psychological assessment service initiated by Cruz’s mother called Henderson Behavioral Health. The documents show a high school resource officer who was also a sheriff’s deputy and two school counselors recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act. That law allows for involuntary commitment for mental health examination for at least three days.
Such an involuntary commitment would also have been a high obstacle if not a complete barrier to legally obtaining a firearm, such as the AR-15 rifle used in the Stoneman Douglas massacre on Feb. 14, authorities say.
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.
Some of the details in this report, including Cruz cutting himself and drinking gasoline, are not new. The push to have Cruz committed is new but the documents the AP has seen don’t explain why the commitment never happened.
This recommendation obviously doesn’t change anything with regard to Deputy Scot Peterson’s cowardice on the day of the shooting. In fact, this could wind up being even worse for him. The AP reports that Peterson, as the School Resource Officer at the high school, had the ability to involuntarily commit someone under the Baker Act. If true, then it seems that the failure to act may fall on Peterson (again).
However, there are other possibilities. In practice, a significant decision like an involuntary commitment was probably subject to review by superiors. Was Sheriff Scott Israel or someone else in the chain of command aware of this push for commitment? What we do know is that this is another point at which law enforcement had a chance to protect people from Nikolas Cruz and failed to do so. Now we need to know why.