Floridians respond to school shooting tragedy

Floridians were shocked Wednesday, Feb. 14, by the news of a school shooting in Parkland that took 17 lives.

According to police reports, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, went to the school on Feb. 14 armed with an AR-15 rifle,where he reportedly pulled a fire alarm and began shooting at students as they poured into the hallways. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The American Red Cross is partnering with local authorities and organizations to continue the support to the families and communities affected by the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland. The Red Cross opened a family resource center at Parkland Recreation Center, located at 10559 Trails End in Parkland. They are providing emotional support, spiritual care and food for the community. They will also support and partner in community events.
An official GoFundMe campaign has been created by the Broward Education Foundation. The money raised will be used to provide direct relief and financial support to the victims and families following the shooting in Florida: www.gofundme.com/stonemandouglasfund.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office extended prayers for the City of Parkland and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff said the department is striving to make sure Okeechobee children have a safe environment.

“If you see something, say something,” said Sheriff Noel Stephen. He said he is asking his officers be vigilant in their patrol zones and asked that the citizens do the same.

On Thursday, local law enforcement dealt with just such a reported threat.

According to an incident report by Detective Bill Saum, of the Okeechobee City Police Department, at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, an individual contacted Det. Saum via Facebook Messenger and forwarded a photograph of what appeared to be a white male dressed in black with a black and white tie. The lower part of the man’s face was masked, in his right hand was what appeared to be a smart phone and in his left hand an apparent semi-auto rifle.
Two messages were reportedly written across the photograph reading, “Round 2 of Florida tomorrow,” and “ANOTHER ONE FINNA GO ON WATCH YOUR KIDS,” supposedly with multiple likes and comments about the photo.

“At about 4:35 p.m. I contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in Sebring and forwarded all the information to them by e-mail. At about 5:19 p.m. I received a call back from FDLE advising the South Carolina high school freshman had been located and arrested in the afternoon and told law enforcement the post was a joke,” stated Det. Saum in his report.

The rifle was reportedly located and determined to be an airsoft rifle. According to a TMZ report, “Law enforcement found the gun — an airsoft rifle — and after a search of the home determined the student had no access to firearms.” The city, charges, and individual’s name are currently unknown.

“Do what this person did, if you see something, report it to law enforcement,” Det. Saum said about the incident.

The report concluded by stating that the complainant who sent the picture to Det. Saum was explained the chain of events that occurred afterward. Detective Sergeant Bettye Taylor and Det. Saum have responded to multiple Facebook contacts informing them as well.

On Thursday, Okeechobee County Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy sent out an email to employees on Thursday evening that included a flyer from the National Association of School Psychologists entitled “Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers”, a two page FEMA flyer on how to prepare and respond regarding an active shooter incident, and a link to a FEMA training “Active Shooter: What can you do?” Mr. Kenworthy encouraged all staff to remind students that “if you see something, say something.”

Prior to the most recent tragedy, the School Board approved and the Operation Department oversaw the installation of exterior cameras at all sites. These are live-feed cameras that can be monitored at each site and also record activity so that it can be reviewed by law enforcement. There are plans to install fencing and gates at all sites in order to create a single-point of entry for school sites. This has been accomplished at many sites already. Individual classrooms are locked and this has been the process for numerous years. The school system continues to provide training for teachers and students regarding safety and reporting anything they see that is out of the ordinary. Crisis counselors respond to threats made against others and follow up with those individuals.

This year eight of the ten schools have conducted lock-down drills. Every classroom and office has been supplied with a copy of the Emergency Handbook which details what to do in the event of an active shooter or other emergency situation.

OneBlood, the local blood center in Florida, responded immediately to the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by rushing additional blood to the nearby hospitals treating victims, Broward Health North Hospital and Broward Health Medical Center.

While the immediate blood needs have been met, there is a need to replenish the area’s O negative blood supply. O negative is the universal blood type and is used to treat trauma patients. OneBlood is asking eligible O negative donors to please visit a donor center or Big Red Bus blood drive and donate.

Appointments are encouraged and can be made online by visiting oneblood.org. Generally, healthy people ages 16 or older who weigh at least 110 pounds can donate blood. To learn more about the importance of blood donation and how donors can target the power of their blood type, visit oneblood.org.

One Blood will have blood drives in Okeechobee on the following dates:

• Saturday, Feb. 17, at Publix from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Trading Post Flea Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Thursday, Feb. 22, at the SFWMD Office on U.S. 70 East from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Thursday, Feb. 22, at St. Lucie Battery & Tire from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Thursday, Feb. 22, at Walgreen’s from noon to 1:45 p.m.
• Friday, Feb. 23, at Big O RV Resort from noon to 5 p.m.
• Monday, Feb. 26, at Beall’s Outlet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Blue Cypress RV Resort from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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