By Tonya Alanez Sun Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — He ran the other way as gunfire blasted, then wasted precious time fiddling with his bulletproof vest and body camera while students were dying, investigators said.
On Friday, that Broward sheriff’s deputy went to work to find out he had been placed on restrictive duty — the second deputy in as many weeks to face suspension over his response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Edward Eason, an 18-year veteran of the agency who made $127,342 last year, is the latest domino to fall as authority figures begin to face consequences for their actions, or inaction, that day. Seventeen people died and another 17 were critically injured.
Despite an extraordinary series of blunders leading to the bloodshed at the Parkland school, it has taken nine months to bring repercussions over errors that may have cost lives. So far, it’s been only a few, and mostly low-level, employees who have taken the hit.
“[Deputy Eason] is not aware of what the charges are; they didn’t give him a reason,” said Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association.
They weren’t told but they know what Eason’s suspension is all about, Bell said. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction to the MSD commission.”
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is a state panel reviewing the shooting. In mid-November, the panel denounced law enforcement’s response to the deadliest school shooting since the 2002 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“Based on the information provided at this month’s MSD Safety Commission meeting, Sheriff Scott Israel requested an internal review of the actions Eason took on Feb. 14,” said Veda Coleman-Wright, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
Bell said he was at sheriff’s headquarters filing a grievance Friday afternoon.
This is Eason’s second blunder related to the school shooting. He was faulted for not writing an official report after receiving a tip in February 2016 that the school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was making threats on social media to shoot up a school. For botching that tip, Eason was given a three-day suspension.
His annual pay is $75,673.72 but with overtime, supplemental earnings and special detail duties, Eason earned $51,668 more than that in 2017, according to the sheriff’s office.
When Eason arrived at the Parkland school campus and heard gunfire, he drove away from it rather than run toward it, investigators said. And as students in need of emergency care bled out in the hallways, Eason dawdled while he put on his bulletproof vest and adjusted his body camera, according to investigators.
Eason’s explanations were marred with contradictions. At first, he told investigators he heard shots “as soon as I got there” coming from the direction of the school. He later claimed he could not tell where the gunshots were coming from or where he was when he heard them, according to the panel’s review.
A recording from Eason’s body camera further contradicted the deputy. It showed Eason pointing toward the the exact building where the shooting occurred and telling bystanders that was where the shots were coming from, the review said.
A week ago, on Nov. 20, Broward sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Miller also was ordered to hand over his badge and gun because of his alleged failures to take action during the shooting. He was placed on restrictive duty too, pending an internal review at the sheriff’s office.
Miller was the highest-ranking officer initially at Stoneman Douglas. He was accused of hearing gunshots and not moving.
On the same day as Miller’s suspension, Jan Jordan, the captain formerly in charge of the Parkland division, resigned. She also was widely criticized by the commission for her role leading the response.
She cited “personal reasons” in her separation form.
©2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)