SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – Disgraced former Broward Sheriff’s School Resource Officer Scot Peterson was a no-show at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission meeting Thursday, defying a subpoena to testify about his actions — or inactions — during the deadly school shooting on February 14th.
Some of the commission members and victim’s families said Peterson failed the community again by refusing to give answers about his decision-making as he remained outside the Freshman Building while shots rang out inside and students and teachers lost their lives, particularly the later victims on the 3rd floor of the building.
Peterson’s attorney, Joe DiRuzzo, did address the Commission and said Peterson was suing the Commission to squash their subpoena and request monetary damages for having to hire an attorney to deal with the subpoena.
“As you can tell, Mr. Peterson is not here,” DiRuzzo said. “Mr. Peterson will not be testifying today.”
On DiRuzzo’s way out, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the attack, had a few words for him.
“He didn’t do his job,” Guttenberg said. “My daughter should be alive.”
Peterson’s failure to show on Thursday struck a nerve with the victim’s families.
“He’s a piece of garbage,” said Max Schachter, whose son Alex died in the shooting. “He could have gone in and saved six children’s lives and he chose to do nothing. He’s a despicable human being.”
In afternoon testimony, the Commission asked pointed questions of Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie about a host of issues.
First, Runcie apologized to the victim’s families for the district’s failure to protect their children and send them home safely.
“We failed to live up to that promise to you,” Runcie said. He later called the shooting “our 9/11 moment for public education.”
Commission Chairman, Polk County Sheriff Bob Gualitieri, demanded that school policy be changed to order a hard corner in each classroom where students and teachers would not be visible or in range of a gunman shooting through a door.
“I’m asking you to create a policy that mandates that schools under your direction have a hard corner so these kids can be safe,” Gualtieri told Runcie.
Schachter said this is a simple and effective measure.
“It is a best practice,” Schachter said. “It has been proven to save children’s lives and he’s gonna do it to protect children’s lives in the district.”
Runcie said he would request the change. He also promised to look into why bathrooms in the Freshman Building were locked because of what the commission said were ongoing issues with vaping or drugs on campus.
It’s believed two students, Meadow Pollack and Joaquin Oliver, were killed when they could not get into the locked bathrooms.
“What’s crazy is their still locked and I’ll never know because my daughter couldn’t go and hide in the bathroom because the doors were locked,” said Andrew Pollack, Meadow’s father.
Superintendent Runcie was also urged to put a formal code red policy in place, discipline Stoneman Douglas employees who sat on information about Cruz’s behavior and avoid putting students who are potential threats in mainstream schools.
Commission member Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the shooting, pressed Runcie on the issue, reminding him that confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was allowed to leave an alternative school to return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, despite a history of troubling behaviors.
“Given what we know now, they should not be in a traditional school environment,” Runcie said.
Petty said he wants to see the school district do a better job of sharing information on student criminal behavior with local law enforcement and mental health officials to try and prevent school shootings.
“The only way we’re gonna stop these threats is the sharing of information,’ Petty told CBS 4 News.
The Commission also questioned Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, asking him about a perceived lack of urgency from initial arriving deputies at the school, who, in some cases, did not immediately run toward the gunfire and did not have annual active shooter training.
Israel said that any deputies who are found to have acted inappropriately or failed to act, would be dealt with.
“If we find out they will be disciplined and they will be disciplined swiftly,” Israel said, adding that he’s waiting for the Commission’s findings before proceeding with his own review.
Commission members also grilled Israel over BSO’s policy for deputies dealing with an active shooter.
They said the policy as written provided deputies discretion on whether to confront the shooter. Israel promised to revisit the policy.
“Make no mistake about it, our deputies will go in and they will insert themselves into harms way just not in a suicidal manner,” he told the Commission.
Israel requested that the Commission recommend that all of Broward County be on a regional communication system to avoid 911 being transferred like occurred in this case with Coral Springs Police and Fire receiving all of the cellphone 911 calls from inside the school as the shooting unfolded.
Israel also said a throttling of BSO’s radio led to significant communications problems, similar to what occurred during the shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017. He also said he did not believe training was a problem for deputies who responded to the shooting.
“Sometimes it’s not about policies and it’s not training,” Israel said. “It’s about performance and you just can’t measure heart.”
We also learned on Thursday that Peterson and DiRuzzo set up a GoFundMe.com page for his legal defense.
We also learned on Thursday that Scot Peterson set up a gofundme.com page for his legal defense. Florida State Representative Jared Moskowitz is calling on gofundme to take the page down.