Off-duty officer who ran toward shots weeps with emotion; wife, son were in school during shooting

An off-duty police officer who was at the Parkland, Fla., high school when a crazed killer opened fire, killing 17 people, gave a powerful account of his actions that would take on added emphasis when he said his wife and son where inside the school.

Speaking at a heart-rending press conference on Friday, Coral Springs police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich said that he was watering the infield of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball field when he heard gunfire erupt.

At first, he thought it was kids “screwing around” with fireworks, but after the second burst, he knew it was gunfire.

Unarmed and wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, Heinrich dropped the hose and ran to the sound of gunfire, encountering a wounded student as he arrived at the school parking lot. Not sure of where his wife and son were, the officer began taking care of the student’s wounds.

Heinrich would soon encounter another Coral Springs police officer, who provided him his back up weapon and an extra S.W.A.T vest the officer had and they entered the school and began clearing classrooms.

All of this taking place while at four Broward County sheriff’s deputies remained outside the school taking no action, as reported by CNN.

“They’re my family. Not only my family, my personal family, but the other people,” Heinrich said, tears running down his face. “Those are kids and teachers and staff I’ve known for years. My wife is the assistant athletic director who works hand in hand with [athletic director] Chris Hixon, who lost his life. [Aaron] Feis was my son’s football coach. So it comes on a different level for me.”

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Officer Heinrich became inconsolable when he spoke about his wife and son, having to pause and collect himself.

“By the grace of God, my wife and my son were at opposite ends of the school – my son was out on a bathroom pass and my wife was in planning inside the girl’s locker room – they both heard the fire alarm and decided to evacuate,” he said through tears.

Heinrich noted that the wounded student he helped gave him a “spot on” description of where the gunman was and what he was wearing.

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Tom Tillison


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