Less than three minutes after the first shots were fired – shots he did not hear -- Brandon Huff and his classmates streamed out of buildings on the south side of Stoneman Douglas High after a fire alarm sounded.
He strolled toward the parking lot, until he saw this text from his girlfriend, Jess:
“there’s a gun. i love you,” she texts at 2:24.
“what baby,” he responds.
“baby there’s a shooter in my room.”
Huff dropped everything and sprinted to Building 12, on the northern edge of campus, where Jess was hiding in the corner of a first-floor classroom.
“I ran straight down to where her classroom, to where the shooter was, because I was going to do everything I could to help her … plan to try to just stop the shooter,” Huff told NBC 6 Investigators.
But as he neared the building, the sound of gunshots piercing the air, he said he saw a sheriff’s deputy – one he recognized as school resource officer Scot Peterson – taking cover behind the wall of stairwell in an adjacent building, pointing his firearm at a closed door to the building where Nikolas Cruz was committing mass murder.
“I thought he was aiming it at somebody and you could hear gunshots going off in the building, the freshman building, over and over,” he said.
But none of those shots were fired by Peterson or any other law enforcement officer.
As a security guard ushered Huff to safety in the auditorium, he took note of the deputy’s actions – or inaction.
He “was just standing there,” occasionally talking on his radio, he said. “He seemed alert. But I mean, he wasn't moving. He just was stuck there and he was not moving.”
Peterson resigned Thursday after Sheriff Scott Israel suspended him without pay and launched an internal affairs investigation into why he did not do what he was trained to do: enter the building and confront an active school shooter.
That investigation will also look into whether other deputies also did not go in to confront and kill the shooter.
From his vantage point, Huff said, “I think if he would've went in there, he could've saved the majority of the lives.”
That, of course, is impossible to say.
But Huff and others in the Stoneman Douglas community are seething at the failures of the sheriff’s office.
“It upsets me that people were getting shot in there, you know children -- freshmen -- who were just starting high school, seniors who were about to finish high school, staff of the school … who weren’t armed, they didn’t have a gun… and they were running in there shielding kids from bullets, you know, getting -- they lost their lives in the process, they were trying to help and he was just standing there.”
Among those killed after going in– coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon.
Huff’s girlfriend did survive uninjured, but two students in her classroom were shot to death.