Scot Peterson, the Broward deputy assigned to be a resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, resigned last Thursday after it was revealed that he failed to enter the school building where Nikolas Cruz shot and killed fourteen students and three faculty members.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told the press that Peterson, 54, should have gone into the building and “killed the killer.” Surveillance footage from the school reportedly shows Peterson was outside the building for more than four minutes while the gunman fired at students inside. The event lasted about six minutes.
“What I saw was a deputy arrived . . . take up a position and he never went in,” Sheriff Israel said. “There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches.”
Peterson resigned after he was suspended without pay on Thursday morning. He was a deputy with the sheriff’s office for more than 30 years. The Illinois native joined the agency in 1985. He became the resource officer at Stoneman Douglas in 2009 and was reportedly regarded by peers as a dependable employee who knew how to communicate with staff and students.
A teacher at Stoneman Douglas has come to Peterson’s defense, saying the criticism was unfair.
“My take is this is misdirected anger,” ninth-grade English teacher Felicia Burgin told The Palm Beach Post. “I think that nobody knowns unless you’re actually in this situation . . . and it just seems to me his choices were to run in there, blindly, and be killed by this AR-15 with his hand gun as a defense, or be called a coward . . . from my perspective, there is nothing he could have done to prevent what happened . . . my anger is with Nikolas Cruz.”
Amid heated public debate regarding Peterson’s inaction, President Donald Trump called him a “coward” who “certainly did a poor job” on Friday. Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie appears to share Trump’s assessment.
“I’m in shock and I’m outraged to no end that he could have made a difference in all this,” Runcie said Thursday. “It’s really disturbing that we had a law enforcement individual there specifically for this reason, and he did not engage. He did not do his job. It’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever heard.”
The sheriff’s office is also investigating two other deputies, Guntis Treijs and Edward Eason, for how they handled potential warnings about Cruz, such as one from November in which a caller said Cruz was collecting weapons and “could be a school shooter in the making.”
Israel said the agency received 23 calls involving Cruz or his younger brother Zachary from November 2008 to November 2017. Trejis and Eason handled two calls, including the one from November, according to documents released by the sheriff’s office. The two deputies were placed on a restricted assignment Thursday.
The reports of possible incompetence from the sheriff’s office are only the latest from officials. CNN reported three Broward deputies in addition to Peterson failed to enter the school building when the shooting began.
Coral Springs deputies who arrived at the school in response to the shooting were reportedly surprised to find that not only had Peterson not entered the building, but three other Broward deputies were behind their vehicles with their guns drawn. None of them had attempted to stop the shooter.
The reports aren’t limited to local agencies—the FBI revealed that it did not investigate a tip about Cruz received in January. The agency was also alerted in September about a suspicious YouTube comment that was likely written by Cruz but didn’t take action.
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