Judge rules police did not have a duty to protect students in Parkland shooting

A memorial in Parkland, Florida.
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A federal judge has ruled neither the Broward County Sheriff's Office nor the local school district had a constitutional duty to protect students during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this past February.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed a suit brought by 15 students against the school district, the sheriff's office, school deputy Scot Peterson, and campus monitor Andrew Medina. Bloom held that because the students were not in custody — prison, for example — state agencies have no legal obligation to protect them.

"The claim arises from the actions of [shooter Nikolas] Cruz, a third party, and not a state actor," Bloom wrote in her ruling. "Thus, the critical question the Court analyzes is whether defendants had a constitutional duty to protect plaintiffs from the actions of Cruz," she said, concluding that "for such a duty to exist on the part of defendants, plaintiffs would have to be considered to be in custody."

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Bloom's ruling is in line with the Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales (2005), which held police do not have a constitutional duty to protect people from harm. In that case, SCOTUS determined the obligation does not exist even when police have been repeatedly notified of violation of a restraining order which is supposed to trigger a mandatory arrest.

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