Newly released surveillance videos show Deputy Scot Peterson standing and waiting outside a building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as Nikolas Cruz massacred 17 people.
One of the videos appears to show Peterson take up a position against the wall of one building and stand there for about 25 minutes, until well after Cruz had completed the killings in an adjacent building and left the campus.
Peterson, the school resource officer, resigned after being suspended by the Broward Sheriff’s Office for failing to confront the shooter during the Feb. 14 attack at the Parkland school.
The videos, released in response to a lawsuit from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald and CNN under Florida’s public records law, shed light on Peterson’s actions but little else.
The sheriff’s office is investigating allegations from Coral Springs officers that other deputies held back and did not enter the building, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said. But the videos, made public in response to an order Monday from a Broward judge, focus on Peterson’s actions only.
No videos from other angles or other parts of the campus were released. Although the videos released Thursday show other officers arriving, it’s difficult to see what agency they’re from and what they’re doing.
The videos released Thursday start at 2:22 p.m., less than a minute after the Broward Sheriff’s Office said Cruz entered the school and began shooting. Peterson can be seen running to a golf cart, at a time when the first 911 call goes out to Coral Springs police, according to a sheriff’s office timeline.
In the videos, people whose images are blurred run out of a building.
At the time, according to the agency’s timeline, Peterson over his police radio said: “Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers, I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired — 1200 building.”
The video shows a golf cart driving past the 700 building, adjacent to the building where the shooting was taking place. Peterson walks to the 700 building and takes up a position by the wall, with a view of the building in which Cruz was shooting.
After Peterson took up his position, Cruz kept shooting inside the 1200 building for an additional four minutes before getting rid of his gun and fleeing, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Peterson maintained his position against the wall until just after 2:50 p.m. By that time, Cruz, having slipped unnoticed off campus, was walking into a Walmart near the school. He would be arrested on a nearby road at 3:40 p.m. In addition to the dead, the attack left 17 wounded.
The sheriff has been harshly critical of Peterson, saying at a press conference Feb. 22 that Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”
The sheriff’s office said little more Thursday.
“The video speaks for itself,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement that accompanied the release of the video. “His actions were enough to warrant an internal affairs investigation, as requested by Sheriff Scott Israel on Feb. 21. After being suspended without pay, Peterson chose to resign and immediately retired rather than face possible termination.”
Peterson has been subjected to national condemnation and ridicule for his actions, or non-actions, that day. President Donald Trump called him a “coward.”
Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo, issued a statement two weeks ago challenging this narrative, saying Peterson had taken up a “tactical position” against the wall of building seven, the appropriate move from his perspective, since he thought the shots might have been fired outside.
“Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” DiRuzzo. “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.”
Peterson’s own radio transmissions suggest he had focused on the 1200 building, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Peterson’s lawyer did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the request of Gov. Rick Scott, has opened an investigation into the law enforcement response to the shooting.
© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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