WCCC honors grad who directed police response at Parkland school shooting
It was Valentine’s Day, and Clyde Parry was sitting in his police chief’s office in Coral Springs, Fla. An officer breathlessly announced he’d heard an active shooter was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Suddenly, phone lines blew up at the department as desperate calls went out for help.
Within seconds, years of training kicked in.
Parry, a Jeannette native who settled in Florida 32 years ago, was on the highway, speeding toward the high school three miles away in the adjoining town of Parkland.
There, as radio malfunctions plagued efforts of Broward County sheriff’s deputies, Parry established a command post. He directed more than 100 Coral Springs police officers who quickly converged on the school and immediately started carrying the wounded to safety and administering first aid.
“It’s why I love cops,” Parry said, recounting the events of Feb. 14, 2018. “When people are running away, they are the ones running to the danger. It takes a special breed. I could not be prouder.”
On Thursday, Westmoreland County Community College recognized Parry, a 1985 honors graduate, as a Distinguished Alumnus during the school’s 48th annual commencement ceremony.
“His service to the community is matched only by his endless dedication to protecting the lives of so many,” WCCC President Tuesday Stanley said.
Parry worked his way up from patrolman to chief in Coral Springs, a department that boasts 221 officers and 100 civilian employees.
He said they had been training for a school shooting since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre outside Denver. Authorities later learned that several victims died while police stood outside for 45 minutes waiting for the SWAT team to arrive.
From then on, police were trained to get inside quickly, subdue the shooter and tend to the wounded.
“We were well trained, and our training kicked in,” Parry said.
Two months before the Parkland school shooting, his officers were trained in “Stop the Bleed” protocols and equipped with bleeding control kits to administer lifesaving first aid to trauma victims.
Before it was over, Parry’s officers carried 17 wounded students to safety and administered lifesaving first aid, using those protocols.
“It was a tragedy. Seventeen people lost their lives. But ordinary officers did extraordinary things. Every person we pulled out of that building was saved because of tactical medicine that was administered by our police officers. I know for a fact that we saved 17 people that day,” Parry said.
The road to leadership has been the journey of a lifetime for the son of Sue and Buck Parry of Jeannette.
“Jeannette had always been known more for its athletics than academics, and I fell into that realm. But I went to college, and getting my first A lit a fuse in me. It showed me what I was capable of,” Parry said.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and took extra training at the FBI National Academy, among other institutions.
That all came later.
Parry landed in Coral Springs, almost by accident.
After graduating from WCCC and completing its police academy, he quickly learned there were few spots for new officers in a region still reeling from the decline of the steel industry. After working part time in Derry for a year — “38 hours a week with no benefits” — he headed to Florida, where police departments were beefing up their rolls as the cocaine wars ripped through the Sunshine State.
The father of three adult sons was just transitioning into the post of acting police chief when the alarms came in from Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Within weeks of the shooting, Parry was named the department’s permanent chief.
In the following months, he spent hours testifying before the panel commissioned to investigate what happened and guiding his department through the tragedy’s aftermath.
“If there is anything that sticks with you more than the things you wish you could unsee, it is the horrified victims, the horrified teachers and the horrified parents who lived through this,” Parry said.
Thursday’s ceremony provided an opportunity to visit his hometown and pass along what he’s learned over the years.
“It is my hope that one of the members of this graduating class comes back and addresses another class in the future. I wish them all the best,” he said.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .