Broward County, FL – The school resource officer on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the massacre that left 17 students and faculty dead, and another 16 wounded, has resigned .
On Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced that when the shooting occurred at the Parkland high school on Feb. 14, Deputy Scot Peterson was on duty at the school, and responded to the building where a former student was shooting classmates, teachers and coaches with an AR-15.
Instead of going into the building to confront the gunman, Sheriff Israel said that surveillance video and witness interviews showed that Deputy Peterson took up a position outside the door to the freshman building that was under attack, but never went inside, WPXI reported.
Sheriff Israel said Deputy 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’s office suspended Deputy Peterson without pay on Wednesday, and the deputy resigned shortly thereafter.
The Sun-Sentinel reported the Deputy Peterson had been a school resource officer at that high school since 2009, and had begun working for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in 1985. As of 2016, his annual salary was $75,673.72, according to sheriff’s office records.
The sheriff’s office also said it was placing two additional officers on restricted assignment while they conducted a separate internal investigation on them, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
This latest development fell on the heels of Sheriff Israel’s announcement on Wednesday that school resource officers in Broward County had already begun carrying rifles on school campuses.
“Our deputies who are qualified and trained will be carrying rifles on school grounds from this point forward,” Sheriff Israel said Wednesday during a press conference. “Only deputies who are trained and qualified will carry those rifles. But we need to defeat any threat that comes onto campus.”
“It will be done safely,” he said. “We need to be able to defeat any threat that comes onto campus.”
“I think schools, as soft targets, need to be fortified. We need to look at how many school resource deputies are being employed at each school … We also need to talk about sensible gun control,” the sheriff said.
Sheriff Israel’s announcement followed in the wake of President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm 20 percent of teachers and coaches against future attacks at schools.
The sheriff told reporters that he had the full support of Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, WTVJ reported.
However, Runcie does not support arming schools’ faculty, and told WTVJ that “we don’t need to put guns in the hands of teachers.”
The challenge for law enforcement seemed to be where to store the rifles, since keeping them outside in police vehicles meant they might not be available when they were needed.
It turns out, local police have been asking to store rifles in school offices for years, and have repeatedly been told they could not.
“If the car is in the parking lot, it might not be as accessible,” Margate Police Chief Dana Watson told the Sun-Sentinel. “The police car can be a half-mile away. You have to run past the shooter to get your rifle?”
Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said his agency offered to pay to install safes to store the weapons and were turned down by the school district. He said they’ve been asking to put rifles in the schools for five years, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“Officers cannot compete with assault rifles with their regular duty handguns,” Chief Pustizzi said. “We have to go in and combat militaristic tactics and weapons. … It looks bad: Can you imagine someone videotaping an officer running away from the school?”
Most police officers’ body armor cannot stop rifle rounds and officers armed with only pistols are at an extreme disadvantage against a shooter with a rifle.
Sheriff Israel said they’re continuing to investigate the school shooting, including the actions of law enforcement who responded to the scene.