The Florida deputy who resigned after it was discovered he didn’t enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the mass shooting on Valentine’s Day is not “a coward” and acted appropriately, his lawyer said in a statement Monday.
Broward Deputy Scot Peterson has been heavily criticized for failing to enter the school and confront the gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.
Peterson had been assigned to guard the school, and his actions — or lack of them — were even lambasted by President Trump, who called Peterson “a coward” last week. Trump on Monday again slammed Peterson and other officers who allegedly did not enter the school, saying “the way they performed was frankly disgusting.”
Peterson’s lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo said in multiple news accounts that the shooting and shots fired appeared to be coming from outside of the buildings.
“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,” according to the statement. “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.”
DiRuzzo said Peterson is confident he followed procedures and will be exonerated.
Peterson contends he took up a position outside Building 12 at the school after rushing over to respond to a report of firecrackers, “and not gunfire.”
“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.”
Once he got to the building, Peterson said he “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 with other law enforcement,” the statement said.
According to Peterson, he was the first Broward deputy to dispatch on police radio shots were being fired, and he told a first-arriving Coral Springs officer he “thought that the shots were coming from outside.”
That arriving officer then took up a tactical position behind a tree with his rifle.
“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,” according to the statement.
He also said he “had the presence of mind” to have school officials review cameras at the facility “to locate the shooter” and obtain a description for law enforcement.
Peterson resigned last week after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel accused him of failing to confront the shooter.
It is unknown what type of training that Peterson or other responding deputies had as it pertains to active shooter response.
For several years it has been taught that officers, upon hearing active shots being fired, enter the school and engage the shooter in an effort to stop or kill the shooter.
This training emphasizes that officers not wait for back-up but to confront the shooter solo if need be.