CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) — Police officers, firefighters and 911 operators with the Coral Springs Police Department, who responded to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, are sharing some of their stories on the day of the shooting.
The high school is only 3 miles up the road from the police department.
More than 100 Coral Springs Police and Fire Department personnel responded on that horrific day and many of them were first on the scene, which is why many are so affected by what they saw and are still trying to cope.
Sgt. Jeff Heinrich who was off duty doing field maintenance at the school said he heard shots and thought at first they were firecrackers. He realized it was an active shooter situation when he saw a student shot and bleeding.
Watch the entire Coral Springs first responders press conference here:
“Kids started to run, kids started to scream. I heard five or six shots,” he recalled. He first helped a student named Kyle who was shot in the leg.
“Kyle gave me a description of what the shooter was wearing and where he was and I relayed that information to dispatch,” he said.
Heinrich became emotional explaining the anxiety he felt because his wife is a teacher in the school and his son is a student. He called his wife after helping injured students.
“I called my wife and luckily I was able to get a hold of her. By the grace of God my wife and my son who were on the opposite ends of the school, my son was out on a bathroom pass and my wife was in planning in the girls locker room, and they both heard the fire alarm and evacuated. By the grace of God, when they walked down the hallway they found each other and they were able to shelter in place with 2 other teachers and 62 other students.”
Sgt. Heinrich, who was in street clothes, was offered a Kevlar vest and weapon by another officer and went to respond to the active shooter.
He was instrumental in saving Kyle’s life and planned to visit him at the hospital Friday.
“They’re my family. Not only my family, my personal family, the Douglas people– those are kids and teachers and staff that I’ve known for years. My wife is the assistant athletic director who works hand in hand with Chris Hixon, who lost his life. Feis was my son’s football coach. So it comes on a different level for me.”
Heinrich was one of five Coral Springs first responders along with two dispatchers who told their stories of horror and heroism on Friday.
Coral Springs Elementary School Resource Officer Tim Burton says he heard the reports of an active shooter over the radio and raced to the campus. Once he was on the scene, he says he grabbed his rifle and rescued kids hiding in classrooms.
“I rescued a few victims who were shot and could not walk to Pine Island Drive along with my fellow officers and shortly thereafter, I was asked to join a search team. We went into the band room where there were 50 to 100 kids, all hunkered down and so happy to see us. That was basically my last assignment.”
He added, “When it settled the tears came. Lately the days are fine but sleeping is tough,” he says.
Former marine Chris Crawford is haunted by what he saw too. He saved two students who were bleeding. One had severe gunshot wounds and he used combat gauze from his department issued life-saving kit to stem the bleeding.
“It’s awful as bad as you can imagine, times ten,” he said. “I have a two-year-old and don’t want to send him to school.”
Coral Springs Fire Lt. Frank Pekora said, “Across our computer screen I saw the words ‘a student is dead, shot through a window.’ I knew this wasn’t a false call.”
The events of that day are played over and over again in the minds of the first responders. All of them say their training paid off preparing for that day but they have to live with the painful memories of the tragedy.