Deputy Defends Actions During Shooting
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — The sheriff’s deputy assigned to guard the Florida high school that was the scene of a mass shooting never entered the building to confront the suspect because he believed the gunfire was coming from outside, his attorney said Monday.
Scot Peterson has been called a coward and worse for failing to act during the massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The criticism intensified Monday as President Donald Trump blasted the deputy and other officers who were there, saying they “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.”
If he had been present, Trump said, he would have raced into the school during the attack even if he were unarmed.
Peterson’s attorney, issuing his first public statement about the attack, said it was “patently untrue” that the deputy failed to meet sheriff’s department standards or acted with cowardice at the scene of the Feb. 14 assault. He resigned after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he felt sick to his stomach over his deputy’s failure to intervene.
“Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” attorney Joseph DiRuzzo said in the statement.
The sheriff’s account of Peterson’s actions that day was a “gross oversimplification,” the attorney said.
The sheriff’s office declined comment, explaining that Peterson’s conduct is being investigated by its internal affairs division.
Speaking to a group of governors at the White House, Trump said: “You don’t know until you’re tested, but I think I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon. And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”
Peterson’s statement said he and a security specialist ran to the scene at first word of the shooting, a report that mistakenly said firecrackers were being set off near one building. He then heard gunshots “but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings.”
Following his training to seek cover and assess the situation in the event of outdoor gunfire, he “took up a tactical position” between two nearby buildings while alerting dispatchers and initiating a “code red” lockdown of the campus, the statement said.
“Radio transmissions indicated that there was a gunshot victim in the area of the football field,” adding to his belief that the shooting was outside.
Gov. Rick Scott’s office has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the police response, and the agency confirmed it would begin the probe immediately.