These Heroic Coral Springs Police Officers Ran Towards Florida School Shooting
February 23, 2018
Within moments, they were among the first to arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School amid the chaos of the massacre that left 17 dead.
On Friday, the members of the Coral Springs Police Department shared their accounts in harrowing detail of the steps they took to save the lives of students and teachers.
Among the rescuers: a Marine who hit about 100 mph to reach the school and who tended to wounded students; an off-duty sergeant whose wife and son also were on school grounds; and an officer who helped get a girl to safety after she’d been shot in the knee.
Here are their stories.
It’s ‘as bad as you can imagine’
Officer Chris Crawford, who patrols near the Coral Square Mall, heard reports of the school shooting on Feb. 14. He drove so fast to get to the school, at about 100 mph, that he scared himself, he said. He was one of the first on the scene and helped rescue a 14-year-old boy.
He grabbed his rifle, and started running.
He was maybe the 12th or 13th officer to arrive, and a sergeant was bringing out an injured boy. The sergeant said the teen had been shot “a bunch of times” and told Crawford to take care of him.
But the teen couldn’t make it to the ambulance, he couldn’t breathe, he said.
So Crawford pulled out combat gauze to stop the bleeding and also “stuffed gauze” in the boy’s back.
A second officer put pressure on the child’s back with his knee.
The boy had also been wounded in his shoulder, thigh and arm.
Another girl Crawford treated had gunshot or shrapnel injuries to her wrist and toe, he said.
After the paramedics took over, Crawford, who served as a Marine, ran to the 1200 building, where much of the shooting took place.
He found a classroom and storage area where 70 students and three teachers were hiding.
He said he had to convince them to remove the barricades to the door — he slipped his ID under the door as proof and was then interrogated about his ID number.
“I forgot my phone or I would have FaceTimed with them,” he said. “I had to negotiate with [them] to come out. I don’t blame them.”
What he saw the day of the shooting was “awful,” he said.
It’s “as bad as you can imagine — times 10,” he said. “I have a 2-year-old. I don’t want to send him to school.”
‘By the grace of God’
Sgt. Jeff Heinrich was in gym clothes and off duty that day. He was watering the lawn of the school. His son, a junior at the school, plays football and baseball there.
When he heard the first round of gunshots, he thought they were fireworks. “I thought kids were screwing around,” he said.
When the second volley began, he knew.
He dropped the hose and started running toward the school where he found a wounded student.
He tended to the boy with a first-aid kit stored in a locker room, and he called police for help.
The boy described where the shooter had been and what he was wearing. The information he provided the sergeant was “spot on,” Heinrich said.
When officers arrived, Heinrich grabbed a vest and a spare rifle from the trunk of a cruiser, and started hunting for the shooter.
He gets choked up when he thinks about what he saw.
In addition to his son, Heinrich’s wife also was at the school. She’s a teacher there. His wife and son both were inside the school, and he didn't immediately know if they were OK.
They survived “by the grace of God,” he said.
Heinrich said he on Friday night planned a visit to the hospital to meet the boy he helped.
“It was surreal,” he said. “You never hope it would happen and it did.”
Officer Tim Burton, the school resource officer at Eagle Ridge Elementary School, had left the school after dismissal and was headed toward a city park where he typically watches over when Douglas kids leave school.
When he heard the call, he raced over, and a school security officer picked him up on a golf cart and gave him shooter Nikolas Cruz’s description and where the shooting was taking place.
The shooting had stopped by then, but Burton didn’t know where he was.
He ran to the 1200 building, and took his position behind a tree and black SUV — scanning for the shooter in the parking lot — while four other Coral Springs officers entered the building.
Eventually he would make his way inside, assisting evacuating students, one girl with a gunshot to the knee.
The agency removed 23 students, 20 of them lived.
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