Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz researched Columbine massacre, panel is told

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in February's massacre at a Florida high school, allegedly researched the 1999 Columbine High School massacre prior to the attack, officials revealed Tuesday.

It was among several disclosures about the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead. (The Columbine shooting, in Littleton, Colo., left 13 people dead.)

Cruz was also able to move freely through the Florida school's campus and into the “fishbowl” of a freshman building, Broward County Sheriff’s Office officials told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, the Miami Herald reported.

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect who allegedly killed 17 people at a Florida high school in February, researched the Columbine High School massacre prior to the assault, officials say.

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect who allegedly killed 17 people at a Florida high school in February, researched the Columbine High School massacre prior to the assault, officials say. (Associated Press)

And teachers trying to lock down their students as the gunman began his attack couldn’t lock classroom doors from the inside, but instead had to grab a key, open the door and turn the lock from the outside, Broward County Sheriff’s Office Detective Zachary Scott told the commission.

BROWARD SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES COWERED BEHIND CARS, TREE WITH PARKLAND SHOOTER BELIEVED IN SCHOOL, REPORT SAYS

The doors also had small windows that allowed Cruz to fire into locked classrooms, Scott said.

Commission members also watched a computer animation showing the gunman’s actions as he moved through the school during the six-minute assault. The suspect and the victims were represented by dots, with the victims’ dots changing colors when they were shot and killed.

"The presentation reminded me of a video game," Okaloosa Sheriff Larry Ashley said. "How many kills can I get?"

Officials revealed some of their findings to the 20-member commission, created by the Florida Legislature and led by Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The commission is tasked with examining the actions of state officials before and after the shooting and will make recommendations for changes in procedures, policies and safety precautions.

Feb. 16, 2018: Crime scene investigators are seen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Feb. 16, 2018: Crime scene investigators are seen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Reuters)

The commission's members include law enforcement and education officials, a state senator, a mental health counselor and the fathers of shooting victims Alex Schachter, Meadow Pollack and Alaina Petty. The final report is set to be released Jan. 1.

"What everyone is going to find out is how much incompetency there was that led to my daughter and the other 16 victims being murdered," Andrew Pollack said.

A separate report revealed that deputies who were among the first to arrive at the Parkland high school were found ducking behind cars and a nearby tree and had no idea where the gunman was.

The report from Coral Springs Officer Bryan Wilkins details how he arrived at the high school within minutes of the active shooter alert – only to find that Broward County Sheriff’s officers were taking cover. Wilkins added he was joined by a Coral Springs detective and a Broward deputy to enter the building, where he saw the dead and wounded.

"What everyone is going to find out is how much incompetency there was that led to my daughter and the other 16 victims being murdered."

— Andrew Pollack, father of Parkland victim

Wilkins’ report was first revealed by the Miami Herald.

Coral Springs Officer Scott Myers revealed in another report that police were originally told by dispatch that authorities were watching the gunman on surveillance video, who was "preparing to exit the East stairwell on the second floor." However, officers found out moments later that the surveillance footage wasn’t live and an “unknown delay existed.”

Cruz, 19, is charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Cruz’s public defender, Howard Finkelstein, told the Associated Press that Cruz will plead guilty to avoid the death penalty – a deal that hasn’t been accepted by prosecutors.

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and the Associated Press contributed to this report.