Scot Peterson, the scorned former Florida school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, says he did nothing wrong during a teen’s bloody rampage at the Parkland school but that ultimately “It was my job, and I didn’t find him.”
Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 students and staff and wounded more than a dozen others in shooting spree on Valentine’s Day. Peterson, who was the school resource officer, resigned days later amid severe criticism from Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel — and President Trump.
“It’s haunting,” Peterson told The Washington Post in an interview released Monday. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.”
The sheriff described Peterson as a “disgrace” for standing outside the building rather than confronting the shooter. Trump described Peterson’s behavior as “disgusting” and said the deputy “choked.”
Peterson, however, maintains that he followed protocol. He said he called in the shooting, locked down the school, cleared kids from the courtyard.
“There wasn’t even time to think,” Peterson said. “It just happened and I started reacting.”
Peterson told the Post he was in his office dealing with a student’s fake driver’s license when he got a call on the school security radio about a “possible firecracker.” He hitched a ride to the scene from one of the school’s eight unarmed security guards.
Peterson said he heard what sounded more like gunshots than firecrackers, but could not tell if the sound was coming from inside or outside the building. He called in a “Code Red” to lock down the school.
The 911 calls describing the shooter and his location were routed to the Coral Springs Police Department, who communicate on a different radio system from the Broward County sheriff’s office. Peterson didn’t get the information.
He said he was preparing to return to work eight days later when internal affairs called. The sheriff’s office had reviewed surveillance tapes of Peterson standing against a wall as the carnage took place. Israel offered Peterson indefinite suspension or retirement with full pension of about $100,000 per year. Peterson retired but remains tormented by the events of Feb. 14.
“They keep saying I did nothing, a coward,” Peterson said. “I just didn’t know. Why didn’t I know to go in?”
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