DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s a school shooting that gripped the nation. A student walks into school and guns down 17 people on Valentine’s Day. The police chief on duty that day is now retired. He’s sharing what he learned from the Parkland, Florida shooting with police and educators in Decatur.
It’s been over two years since we witnessed students and teachers running away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Tony Pustizzi was the chief of police of Coral Springs when the shooting call went across the radio, a scene he says will stay with him forever.
“It’s like PTSD. Certain events in your life you’ll never unsee,” said retired Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi.
Pustizzi, who is retired now, is often called on to hold school shooting seminars. He held one at Austin High School in Decatur on Wednesday. He talked about that Valentine’s day - when a teenager armed with an assault weapon walked into the school and killed 17 people. Pustizzi shares this cellphone recording during his address to police and school leaders in Decatur. He says it’s the confessed killer - laying out his plan.
“Hi, my name is Nick and I’m going to be the next school shooter of 2018.” he said.
Pustizzi meticulously walks through each minute of the Parkland shooting - from the first shot to when the killer was arrested. He says its vital to talk about the experience with those who’ve never been through it - sharing what went right, and what didn’t.
“Our department felt it was prepared if something like this happened, our training was up to date. even though I felt as a chief we were prepared. Its obvious you can never really be prepared for a situation like this,” said Pustizzi.
“There are lessons learned not only from the police department side the fire department, the dispatching center, the school board, the school system how everybody approaches an active shooter make sure everyone is on the same page.”
A tragedy now left to play out in the court system.
“I do believe we are going to see an increase in violence in schools coming up.”
A danger facing school administrators as they navigate the challenges of a new school year.
“That’s the reason we talk about safe corners away from that door.”
Dwight Satterfield, Decatur City Schools deputy superintendent, talked to a group of law enforcement and school leaders during a conference with Tony Pustizzi. He’s the retired Coral Springs police chief on scene the day of the deadly school shooting in Parkland Florida. Two years later, Pustizzi says, there’s still plenty to be concerned about.
“There’s been a lot of people home by themselves, isolated that’s going to compound the issue going forward,” said Pustizzi.
Some school districts in the country have pulled their school resource officers, saying they don’t belong there. There are cries to defund police too. Pustizzi says that’s a big mistake.
“I think we’re really creating an issue in this country if we remove now the one hardening of the target which is having an armed police officer there to protect students lives.”
Decatur City Schools knows how valuable SRO’s are to the safety of students and teachers. And, that what happened at Stoneman Douglas High School two years ago can happen anywhere. While the SRO on duty that day never went inside the school during the shooting, Pustizzi says there are plently of SRO’s who would put their lives on the line for the safety of students and teachers.
“This school resource officer program was established to create a bond with officers and students. its more of a situation where the officers get to know the kids and the kids get to know the police officers,” said Pustizzi.