The Florida deputy who resigned after it emerged 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 resigned last week after it emerged that he failed to enter the school and confront the alleged gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, during his rampage that left 17 people dead.
Peterson had been assigned to guard the school, and his action to not enter the building was met with widespread criticism including President Trump who lambasted him as “a coward.”
Speaking for Scot Peterson, lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo said in a news release that the one-time school resource officer of the year didn’t go inside the high school because it sounded like the shooting was happening outside the building.
“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 said he “heard gunshots but believed those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings on the school campus,” according to the release.
“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 release continuted.
Peterson also claimed in the statement released by his lawyer that he took up a position outside Building 12 at the school after rushing over to respond to a report of firecrackers.
He said that he was the first Broward deputy to dispatch on police radio that shots were being fired, and that he told a first-arriving Coral Springs officer that 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 law firm.
He also said he “had the presence of mind” to have school officials review with closed-circuit 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.
His lawyer also slammed Israel for his criticism of the officer, adding that judgement should be withheld until the investigation into the school shooting is complete.
“It is our understanding that Sheriff Israel acknowledged that the investigation remains on-going and that “[i]nvestigations will not be rushed or asked to jump to conclusions.” But this is exactly what Sheriff Israel did, he jumped to a conclusion regarding Mr. Peterson’s performance on February 14th even though Israel claims that “[i]t is more important for us to wait and let the investigators get it right[.]” We question why this statement would not also apply to Mr. Peterson?,” the statement said.
Some politicians have said Israel needs to go because his office ignored warnings about Cruz reported in more than a dozen tipster calls.
On Sunday in an interview with CNN, Israel slammed a letter from State Rep. Bill Hager to Florida Gov. Scott, which called for his removal on the basis of inaction after at least 23 — and perhaps almost 50 — police visits to the shooter’s home and the reports of his officers standing idle.
Israel said the demand was a “shameful, politically motivated letter that had no facts.”
Scott – who has already called for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign amidst the bureau’s own investigative blunders in the months leading up to the attack – said Sunday that the police response will be scrutinized. He has yet to say Israel should step aside.
“I have asked for FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] to immediately investigate the law enforcement response and will continue to review this matter as more facts come out,” he said. “There must be an independent investigation and that is why I asked the FDLE Commissioner to immediately start this process.”
A survivor of the shooting told Fox News on Sunday that the sheriff had to go.
“He failed to act on so many different levels and him himself, he is responsible for this massive failure. It could have been easily stopped both by the FBI and the sheriff’s department had they acted,” Kyle Kashuv told “America’s News HQ.”
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran also alleges the sheriff did not properly train Peterson.
Fox News’ Kathleen Joyce, Greg Norman, Joseph Weber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.