There won’t be any “coward” talk this time.
Friday’s news about a Florida school shooting felt all too familiar at first — an armed former student had fired on school grounds, spilling blood and terrorizing students and staff.
But this time, an armed deputy stationed on campus made all the difference.
According to WOFL in Orlando, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told reporters at a news conference Friday that sheriff’s Deputy James Long responded immediately to the sound of gunfire, which was first reported at 8:39 a.m.
By 8:42 a.m. — three minutes later — the gunman was in custody, and the school’s students were safe.
“Deputy Jimmy Long. That man in my eyes is a hero,” Woods said. “Without hesitation, without second thought, in less than three minutes after hearing the gunshot, (he) responded and took into custody the suspect.”
The contrast with what happened in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County — a four-hour drive away — could not have been more stark.
Instead of cowering outside the building like Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s deputies did, a good guy with a gun, and a teacher with guts, had the situation under control almost immediately, with no lives lost.
According to the Ocala Star-Banner, the shooting at Forest High School in Ocala started when former student Sky Bouche, 19, brought a shotgun to the school hidden in a guitar case.
He fired the weapon through a classroom door, hitting a student on the other side in the ankle. He then dropped the gun and tried to hide, but digital technology teacher Kelly McManis-Panasuk engaged him in conversation until Long and the school’s principal arrived.
“He wanted to be arrested,” McManis-Panasuk told the Star-Banner. “I really don’t think he meant to shoot the gun. I think it really was an accident. He just wanted someone to listen to him.”
That, of course, is a much different situation than the Stoneman Douglas shooting, where a 19-year-old former student killed 14 students and three teachers in about six minutes of shooting before fleeing the campus.
The point, though, is that when he heard the first gunshot, Long had no way of knowing the gunman’s rampage was going to be so short-lived. He took immediate action.
As the Star-Banner put it:
“The Broward County Sheriff’s Office was criticized for its handling of the Parkland shooting. No such criticism will be leveled against Woods’ deputy or any other emergency workers who responded Friday morning. There was a plan and it was executed.”
The social media reaction was full of admiration for the deputy’s speed and courage.
HERO: “Without hesitation, without second thought, in less than three minutes after hearing the gunshot, he responded and took into custody the suspect,” said Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods the Ocala school shooting: https://t.co/uTKW9Cwmmd pic.twitter.com/ySzFVlrhQl
— FOX 13 Tampa Bay (@FOX13News) April 20, 2018
Thank you so much for your bravery in keeping all those students safe. The same goes to the other law enforcement officers, fire rescue, teachers and students. Everything and everyone worked together, followed training. #LivePD @MCSOFlorida @MarionFire3169
— Shirley McCullough (@EileenElder) April 20, 2018
Real man! Unlike deputies in coward I mean Broward county.
— Jeff Draggich (@JeffDraggich) April 21, 2018
Until the Parkland shooting, Florida law enforcement had a national reputation for being tough on criminals.
When most Americans thought of a Florida lawman, they were more likely to picture no-nonsense sheriffs like Polk County’s Grady Judd — who publicly encouraged his residents to get their own guns to deal with criminals — than Broward’s Scott Israel, who came off to the country as a pathetic political hack created by the Broward Democrat machine.
Long’s reaction — and the fact that no lives were lost in Friday’s school shooting — went a long way toward redeeming Florida law enforcement’s reputation after the disgrace of Broward County.
One thing is for sure: There won’t be any “coward” talk this time.
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