Parkland, FL – The Broward County sheriff’s deputy, who was blamed for failing to act while Nikolas Cruz slaughtered 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman High School on Valentine’s Day, said that he is not a coward, and that he did nothing wrong.
Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, 54, who was the school resource officer at the high school, resigned from his position on Thursday.
“Allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue,” Peterson’s attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo said in a statement on Monday, according to the Miami Herald.
“Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the seventeen victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” DiRuzzo said.
He explained that Peterson initially believed that the gunfire was coming from outside of the school, so he “took up a tactical position” between two buildings, NBC News reported.
DiRuzzo argued that his client was the first person to report the active shooter, and that he gave SWAT members keys to the building, accessed security videos, and drew them diagrams of the campus.
“BSO trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek cover and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes with other law enforcement,” DiRuzzo explained.
DiRuzzo said that, in the face of public backlash, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel rushed to blame Peterson without having considered all of the factors that unfolded at the scene.
“Radio transmissions indicated that there were a gunshot victim in the area of the football field, which served to confirm Mr. Peterson’s belief that the shooter, or shooters, were outside,” DiRizzo said, according to the Miami Herald. “Sheriff Israel’s statement is, at best, a gross oversimplification of the events that transpired.”
On Thursday, Sheriff Israel announced that the school resource officer had taken cover outside the freshman building while a former student murdered 17 students and faculty, and wounded 14 others, in the hallways and classrooms inside.
Sheriff Israel said Deputy Scot Peterson, a 23-year veteran of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The sheriff was already facing strong criticism about his department’s handling of complaints about 19-year-old school shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Sheriff Israel has acknowledged his office received 23 calls about Cruz over the past 10 years – including one last year about his gun and knife collection – but they didn’t follow up and investigate the future mass murderer, The New York Times reported.
He announced that he’d placed two additional deputies on restricted duty on Thursday. They were investigating the deputies’ alleged failure to properly handle tips about the would-be school shooter over the past two years, the sheriff said.
“I am devastated. Sick to my stomach. He never went in,” Sheriff Israel said according to the Miami Herald.
On Friday, CNN reported that when Coral Springs police officers arrived on the scene of the active shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, three additional Broward County deputies were outside the school, with their pistols drawn, taking cover behind their police vehicles.
Coral Springs police, joined by a Sunrise police officer and some new Broward County deputies who arrived on the scene after them, were the first law enforcement officers to attempt entry into the building – but even then, the Broward deputies already on the scene stayed behind, CNN reported.
On Monday, President Donald Trump lambasted the “disgusting” law enforcement officers who refused to enter the school during the massacre, and said that he would have acted differently – even if he was unarmed, FOX News reported.
“You don’t know until you test it,” Trump said. “But I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon. I think most of the people in this room would have done that too, because I know most of you.”
“The way they performed was really a disgrace,” he continued. “They weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.”