Parkland, FL – Police have released surveillance footage of the armed school resource officer’s response during the brutal massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 (video below).
The video showed the school resource officer, Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, jumping in a golf cart and racing across campus to respond to the initial shots fired.
When he and other school officials arrived at the building, one man appeared to run into the building, while Deputy Peterson hung back and talked into his radio.
The video never showed Deputy Peterson making any attempt to go into the school buildings to stop the shooter.
“The video speaks for itself,” the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “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.”
Initially, Deputy Peterson said he had taken up a tactical position outside because he didn’t know if the shooter was in the building.
But recordings of the officer’s radio traffic during the initial response at the scene told a totally different story.
“Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired —1200 building,” Deputy Peterson radioed at 2:23 p.m.
The dispatcher put out the call to police to respond to shots fired at Stoneman Douglas High School and officers began responding they were “en route.”
Deputy Peterson gave additional directions to officers to assist them in finding the scene quickly, and took up a position at the southeast corner of a nearby building, where he stayed, instead of heading into the building to try to stop the shooter and rescue students.
“We’re talking about the 1200 building, it’s going to be the building off Holmberg Road,” he added, seconds later.
“Get the school locked down, gentlemen!” Deputy Peterson yelled over the radio.
Then he confirmed the location of the shots inside the 1200 building, and reported students running west, toward the football field.
The dispatcher coordinated arriving units and cleared irrelevant radio traffic.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s standard operating procedures manual says that a “sole deputy or a team of deputies” may enter an active shooter situation to “preserve life" without a supervisor’s approval.
But Deputy Peterson did not follow department policy, according to the recording.
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away,” Deputy Peterson advised officers responding to the scene of the school shooting. Students can be heard screaming in the background during his radio transmissions.
“Stay away from 12 and 1300 building,” the dispatcher repeated.
Officers began calling in with victims with gunshot wounds at that point in the recording, and then Coral Springs police made the first entry into the building.
The Miami Herald reported that the recordings supported Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s assertion that the school resource officer should have entered the building and tried to eliminate the shooter to save lives.
They also dispute what Deputy Peterson claimed happened through is attorney after the incident.
No explanation was given for why a school resource officer, who should have been highly trained by the department for active shooter situations, appeared to have no idea what the active shooter response should be.
The recordings backed up the accusations that had been made against Broward County Sheriff’s Captain Jan Jordan, who ordered officers to “set up a perimeter” and “stage” prior to sending them into the building to eliminate the threat.
The recordings showed that other deputies may have responded more quickly if not for the fact that both Deputy Peterson and the incident commander, Capt. Jordan, were telling them not to go in.
Jeff Bell, the president of Broward Sheriff’s Office’s police union, told the Miami Herald he was glad they released the audio and timeline of events from Feb. 14.
“It certainly backs up that [Deputy Peterson] never went into the school,” Bell said. “At one point he says to keep back 500 feet. Why would he say that?”
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s handling of the tragic incident on Valentine’s Day has been questioned by Florida lawmakers, as well as the state’s attorney general and governor. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was investigating, and the entire incident continues to be a subject of concern for nationwide law enforcement.
You can see the video of Deputy Peterson's response below: