In an email to Juice, the Broward Sheriff's Office has admitted committing an error in its report about a BSO school resource deputy's response to the nearly fatal beating of Josie Lou Ratley last week at Deerfield Beach Middle School.
In the hours after that attack, the sheriff reported that "there was a BSO deputy on campus at the time that immediately responded and took the suspect into custody."
But this week, two clues emerged that called into question the immediacy of that response. The first came with the release of the 911 call by Christine Flynn, principal of Deerfield Beach Middle School.
In that conversation with a 911 operator, it's apparent that the suspect, 15-year-old Wayne Treacy, is in the custody of school staff and that no police officer is present -- Flynn tells the operator, "We need police here immediately."
The operator tells Flynn that police have been dispatched and have arrived at the school, though Flynn can be heard saying that she still doesn't see a deputy.
Had there been a police officer, Treacy would have been handcuffed; whereas in the 911 call, Flynn can be heard scolding to Treacy, "Put your phone down! Put your phone down, now!" (It's since been revealed that Treacy was texting friends that he was heading to jail.)
A second clue surfaced at Tuesday night's Deerfield Beach Commission meeting, of all places. During the public comment period of that meeting, a mother of a student at Zion Lutheran Christian School complained to commissioners about the "chaos" she witnessed on a daily basis on SE Tenth Street as droves of students from Deerfield Beach Middle School spilled onto the streets and harassed motorists.
The parent, Penny Frantello, told commissioners that on the same afternoon that Treacy attacked Josie Ratley, a student had a thrown a rock at Frantello's car, shattering the windshield.
It appears Frantello called 911 before the Treacy attack, and she told commissioners that while she was talking to a BSO deputy that deputy received a call about a rock that was thrown at a school bus.
At least one of those two incidents, it seems, were to blame for the school resource deputy's not having witnessed the attack and for her not being available to respond more quickly. (Ultimately, a teacher who witnessed a crowd gathering near the bus stop managed to pull Treacy off of Ratley before she was killed.)
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Indeed, in an email Wednesday afternoon, BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal told Juice that initial reports about BSO's response may have been misleading:
We said [the school resource deputy] quickly responded and took custody of Wayne Treacy, who was being detained by school personnel. I learned late [Tuesday] that that was not entirely accurate. Our deputy was in her car, about four blocks from school, checking an area where rock throwing had recently been reported at dismissal time. The deputy was alerted to the emergency and was on campus and had Treacy, who was detained by school personnel, secured a few minutes after the attack.
In a follow-up note, Leljedal told Juice that the mistake was due to BSO media staff's "misunderstanding of the facts."
Given the high profile of the Josie Ratley case, the error could have major political ramifications. As Juice first reported last month, Deerfield Beach officials have been closely following the protracted negotiations between BSO and neighboring Pompano Beach, where the new city manager initially recommended that the city sever ties with BSO. The contract between BSO and Deerfield Beach is up for renewal this year.