The Broward County Sheriff's department on Thursday released a sampling of the 911 calls received during last month's Parkland, Florida, school shooting, offering a glimpse as to how dispatchers worked to deduce where the shooter was while frantic family members relayed information from students hiding inside the school.
The released audio is a selection of the more than 70 calls received by the sheriff’s regional communications 911 operators on Feb. 14, when a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school around 2:20 p.m., opened fire, and killed 17 students and faculty. Coral Springs Police communications fielded about 86 emergency calls between 2:22 and 3:35 p.m. ET that Valentine's Day afternoon.
The audio was released as one file with no time stamps. The timeline and order the phone calls remain unclear.
On the calls, frantic, breathless parents and family members can be heard trying to text their children, reading out the contents of their messages to dispatchers, who are asking them what room number their children are in, if they can hear shots, if the police are there yet, and telling them to hide and stay secure.
In the background, listeners can hear other dispatchers picking up calls, calling out numbers, and asking for names.
In one nearly 20-minute phone call, a dispatcher stays on the phone with an anxious mother and father waiting to hear back from their daughter.
"My daughter just texted me she's at Stoneman Douglas... she says she is behind the desk right now but the shots were close to her," the mother tells the dispatcher. "It's her birthday today... the glass was shattered in her door... she's not answering the texts... we just sent four in a row..."
Here are snippets from their call:
Dispatcher: "Just stay on the phone with me."
Mother: "She hasn't texted back yet."
Mother: "Nothing yet."
Dispatcher: "Ask her what can she hear?"
Mother: "Still nothing... I don't know what's happening."
Dispatcher: "I can't tell you how to feel but I want you to know there's a lot of [police] on scene... Did she text back yet?"
Mother: "No. No."
Mother: "All I can hope is that it was the police that she heard and that they didn't come out...thinking it was the police..."
Dispatcher: "I don't want you to call her, you understand?... They just got someone out from 1220."
Mother: "Oh my gosh there is somebody on the stretcher."
Dispatcher: "Give your daughter a few more minutes they are coming through the hallway."
Mother: "Oh my gosh. these kids."
Dispatcher: "Nothing yet from her, right?"
Mother: "Three shot in her room, she said. Oh my god. Oh my god... she's ok."
Dispatcher: "Ok. She's ok?... Ok I am going to hang up with you now. We can hang up."
In another call, a man talked to the operator while a woman was on speaker phone with her daughter who was hiding in a classroom in the 1200 building.
"Hide somewhere, play dead," the mother can be heard telling her daughter in the background of the 911 call. "If he shoots, play dead."
The sheriff's office noted that while operators were obtaining information from callers, they were also updating the dispatchers through a computer system, which passes information along to deputies on the scene.
In another call, a fraught grandmother can be heard telling the dispatcher, "my granddaughter is texting me saying there is a shooter please call 911... she says she is scared."
In a wavering voice, the grandmother reads out the texts she is sending her granddaughter: "Hide. On the phone with police. Police said hide."
As one man ends the call, he tells the dispatcher, "Thank you for your help. I hope this turns out to be not so bad."
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brianna Sacks is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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