“I’m a changed guy. They killed my daughter. I have to expose these people first before I can get any sort of peace in my life. And I’m doing it. One by one, I’m going to finish these people off.”
Those are the words of Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year. Thursday is the one-year anniversary of Parkland and the media are in full retrospective mode, recalling the horror of the event and cranking out admiring profiles of those who’ve pushed for more restrictions on gun rights since the shooting. Look for those to intensify as the week goes on.
But Pollack isn’t one of those who has embarked on a gun control campaign in the last year. Un-like fellow Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg, he hasn’t blamed the existence of or access to guns for his daughter’s death. Instead, he’s gone after the near-criminal levels of ignorance and incompetence displayed by those in positions of authority at the Broward County Public Schools and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office that directly contributed to the death toll.
“I haven’t smiled since my daughter was murdered. I just can’t do it. You can’t enjoy yourself anymore in life,” he says, gazing across the rocky lot. “And it was the most avoidable shooting in the country’s history. Everyone has been affected by this and they’ll never be the same.”
How could they be? Particularly after the slow drip of information began almost immediately after the shooting. Revelations that exposed jaw-dropping levels of negligence and mismanagement by school administrators and local law enforcement.
With Broward Sheriff Scott Israel finally relieved of his job by newly-elected governor Ron DeSantis…
The top spot on Pollack’s must-go list: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie. Pollack accuses the schools chief of lenient policies he believes contributed to the events of Feb. 14, 2018.
It was a culture of leniency that allowed a campus monitor named Andrew Medina to be in charge of the school’s gate that afternoon, says Pollack. Four months before the shooting, a schools disciplinary committee had recommended firing the 39-year-old Medina after complaints of sexual harassment from students, but the district’s human resources chief gave him a three-day suspension instead.
After the shooting, the campus monitor, who was also an assistant baseball coach, told investigators he had left the gate unlocked and unattended. He said he recognized the gunman who was “beelining” toward a building filled with hundreds of students, but didn’t know his name. “Crazy Boy” is how Medina referred to Cruz, a former student expelled a year earlier for threatening behavior.
“I knew who the kid was because we had a meeting about him last year and we said, ‘If there’s gonna be anybody who’s gonna come to this school and shoot this school up, it’s gonna be that kid,’” Medina told Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives in a videotaped interview.
Pollack’s repeatedly targeted Medina’s negligence over the last year. But one thing he hasn’t done is blame guns for his daughter’s death.
He says focusing on guns is a waste of time.
“Anyone who’s going to get into a gun debate, all you do is deflect from doing what we can do together. And that’s fix the schools and make them safe. A gun debate is a distraction,” says Pollack, who describes himself as “not pro-gun or anti-gun.”
While being agnostic regarding firearms, he supports the Parkland Commission’s near-unanimous conclusion that, in order to protect students, schools need to have trained, armed individuals on-site.
“The average shooting takes four minutes. No one can get there in time to save the kids,” says Pollack, who favors an extensive, tactical program that would train teachers and other school employees on the use of firearms in an active shooter situation. “Liberals go nuts and say, ‘Oh, we’re gonna arm teachers.’ It’s not about arming teachers. It’s voluntary.”
He believes such a training program should be open to all school personnel, “I don’t care if it’s the lunch lady,” if they can pass the rigorous course.
Since the shooting, he’s sold his house and now lives in a camper with his wife, an emergency room physician. It’s part of his eventual plan to “escape Broward County” and what he describes as “unethical Democrat” politicians and the “sick, demented” people who elect them.
“I sold my house. I can’t live in a county that’s this toxic. I just can’t do it,” says Pollack, who describes his future plans as “living week to week.” Long-term plans, however, do not involve staying in Broward, he says. “You’ve got to have your head examined to move into a Democratic county like Broward.”
When he does look back, he does so to remember Meadow.
“I’ve got a little video I watch, a medley of her pictures I put together and watch whenever I need to get empowered,” he says. “But I see her all day long. She’s in my head. She’s telling me to expose these people and keep fighting.”