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PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – An attorney for now-retired Broward school resource deputy Scot Peterson is responding to what he calls ‘unfounded criticism of his actions’ during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
According to Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, Scot Peterson stayed outside the building where the shooting was taking place. Scot Peterson took cover outside as bullets flew for 4 minutes and “never went in,” Israel had said.
“I was disgusted. I was just demoralized with the performance of former deputy (Scot) Peterson,” Israel said.
The sheriff alleges their training mandates they go in.
“We train to immediately move in to a situation like that and push towards the shooter, eliminate the shooter, make sure that you can save lives by eliminating the shooter,” said Sheriff Israel.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue.
“You have one guard. He didn’t turn out to be too good, I’ll tell you that,” said Trump. “Peterson, the deputy who didn’t go into the school because he didn’t want to go into the school.”
Peterson resigned last week following his suspension.
Now, he has hired attorney Joseph DiRuzzo who has released a statement on behalf of Peterson.
He says Sheriff Israel’s news conference held on February 22 in which he was accused of failing to respond appropriately, misaligns his client who has a decorated career with BSO including “glowing annual performance reviews and being named the school resource officer of the year in 2014 for Parkland.”
DiRuzzo stresses, “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. However, the 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. Mr. Peterson is confident that his actions on that day were appropriate under the circumstances and that the video (together with the eyewitness testimony of those on the scene) will exonerate him of any sub-par performance. Sheriff Israel has indicated that the video may never be released to the public, but then commentated on the very same video to allege that Mr. Peterson took up a position on the west side of the building, but that Mr. Peterson never went in the building. Sheriff Israel’s statement is, at best, gross oversimplification of the events that transpired.”
CBS4’s Carey Codd spoke with former prosecutors and law enforcement officers who said they don’t foresee criminal charges being brought against Peterson. They said it would be a stretch to charge him with culpable negligence for failing to act. Peterson’s pension would also likely not be affected unless he’s convicted of a felony that relates to his direct job performance.
Many continue to question Peterson’s actions, saying with dozens and dozens of rounds being fired it’s difficult to believe the veteran deputy did not know where the shots were coming from.
Jeff Bell is president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association.
“With that information you know where those rounds are being fired from, you better get your butt in that building because it doesn’t matter if you actually kill the shooter,” Bell said. “There are plenty of circumstances in past scenarios where shooters have simply given up because they saw uniform police officer make entry.”
There have been questions about whether BSO had a policy not to go into an active shooter situation until a SWAT team arrived. Sheriff Scott Israel said the training is to confront an active shooter. John Rivera is the former longtime president of the Police Benevolent Association in Miami-Dade.
He said he’s not aware if BSO has such a policy but says in a situation like this shooting it could have understandably been disobeyed.
“Even if we had a policy not to go in, I think given the circumstances and hearing the children, I think we would have rushed in, even if it we violated the policy,” Rivera said.
Questions also have mounted over what happened during the shooting. Sources have previously said that Coral Springs police officers arrived at the site of the shooting and were surprised to find three sheriff’s deputies, in addition to Peterson, had not entered the school.
Israel said his department is also looking into reports that the deputies didn’t enter the school building during the shooting, but as of now, Peterson was the only officer that he was certain had been derelict.
“We will get to the truth, but at this point, one deputy was remiss, dereliction of duty, and he’s now no longer with this agency. And that’s Peterson,” Israel said.
DiRuzzo claims Sheriff Israel omitted facts.
- Peterson initially “received a call of firecrackers — and not gunfire — in the area of the 1200 Building.”
- In response to the firecracker call Mr. Peterson along “with Security Specialist Kelvin Greenleaf exited the 100 Building and ran north the couple of hundred yards to the 1200 Building.”
- Upon arriving at 1200 Building Mr. Peterson “heard gunshots but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of any of the buildings on the school 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 to other law enforcement.
- Consistent with his training, Mr. Peterson “took up a tactical position between the 700-800 buildings corridor/corner.”
- Peterson was the first BSO officer to advise BSO dispatch that he heard shots fired.
- Peterson “initiated a ‘Code Red’ lockdown of the entire school campus.”
- “The first police officer that arrived on-scene was from the Coral Springs Police Department.” Mr. Peterson informed this Coral Springs Police Officer that he “thought that the shots were coming from outside.” This Coral Springs Police Officer took up a tactical position (approximately twenty yards away from Mr. Peterson) behind a tree with his rifle.
- “Radio transmissions indicated that there was 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.”
- Peterson had the presence of mind to have the school administrators go to the school’s video room to review the closed-circuit cameras to locate the shooter and obtain a description for law enforcement.
- Peterson provided his keys to the Coral Springs SWAT team so that they could enter the 1200 Building.
- Peterson “provided BSO SWAT Command with handwritten diagrams of the entire Stoneman Douglas campus for student evacuation.”
DiRuzzo added, “Mr. Peterson is looking forward to cooperating with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation, which we hope will detail the events of that tragic day and which we believe will ultimately clear Mr. Peterson’s name.