New video shows school cop hiding as gunman shoots Parkland students
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Vilified as a coward for failing to intervene in the Parkland school shooting, former deputy Scot Peterson was accused Wednesday of something equally fundamental: Bad police work.
A surveillance video of Peterson’s movements outside the school was shown Wednesday to the state commission investigating the massacre, with the video plotted against an animation showing the shooter’s actions and combined with recordings of police radio calls. Peterson, who has been subpoenaed to testify to the commission next month, resigned in disgrace after videos showed he took cover and did nothing to confront the gunman.
During the ordeal inside the freshman building, which left 17 dead, Peterson called over the radio for intersections to be blocked, which members of the commission said was precisely the wrong tactic when an active shooter is busy killing people. He failed to provide an initial radio report about the shootings to BSO, letting minutes pass in silence. Peterson told BSO officers to stay at least 500 feet from the building.
The correct call during an active shooter situation is for law enforcement officers to charge in after the shooter, said Zack Scott, the BSO detective who showed the video to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
Although other BSO officers have been criticized for failing to respond aggressively, commission members said the bad radio calls could account for that. The order to block intersections went to BSO units but not to officers of the adjacent city of Coral Springs, which commissioners said could account for the swifter, more effective response of that city’s police department.
“If you’re a responding Broward Sheriff’s deputy, and you have the deputy that’s on campus, who’s there in the best position, telling you what to do — i.e. lockdown intersections, they’re going to do what the guy who’s on campus is telling them to do,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, chairman of the commission. “Coral Springs didn’t hear that direction. So Coral Springs is coming right in. Why are they coming right in? Because they weren’t hearing this nonsense direction about locking down intersections.”
During the shootings, gunman Nikolas Cruz reloaded five times, which commission members said meant there were opportunities to stop him if Peterson had done his job or others on campus had been armed. Eleven minutes passed from the time of the first shots to the time the first police officer entered the building. Peterson never entered. As the video was shown, family members in the audience wept and dabbed their eyes.
“Don’t tell me that he loved these kids,” said Max Schachter, a member of the commission, whose son Alex was killed in the massacre. “If they were his kids he would have gone in, he would have saved them. He let our children be slaughtered. He did nothing. He’s no police officer, no law enforcement officer. Anybody with a badge would have done something. He did nothing. I hope he rots in hell.”
The BSO detective kept stopping the video to describe to the commission how many people were shot and died and where, and what Peterson and two unarmed security guards were doing at the same time: approaching on golf carts, nearing the building and backing away.
Peterson took up a position 69 feet from the door to the freshman building, where the killer was at work. As Cruz went to the second and third floor in search of more victims, Peterson retreated rather than going in, Gualtieri said.
Peterson, who was allowed to keep his pension, has been subpoenaed to testify at the October meeting of the commission investigating the shooting, Gualtieri said.
“It’s very important, and he should answer,” Gualtieri said during a break in the meeting. “He went on the ‘Today’ show, and he talked to The Washington Post, so he should answer questions from this fact-finding commission. He told a self-serving story on the ‘Today’ show in a friendly environment so he can answer questions from this commission.”
Schachter said his question for Peterson will be simple.
“Why?” he said. “He was at the front of that building and he didn’t enter. He could have done something. Why did he go away and hide?”
Peterson’s lawyer did not respond to a phone call and email about whether his client would testify.
But Gualtieri said he saw no basis for Peterson to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify. If he does refuse, he said, the commission has the option of going to court to ask a judge to hold him in contempt.
“It’s very important that we hear from him, that the commission hears from him and that the public hears from him,” he said. “Why he acted, why he didn’t act, what he knew and what he didn’t do.”
Asked later whether Peterson could face criminal charges from professional negligence, Gualtieri said, “that’s part of what’s being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.”
Although Peterson later said he didn’t know where the shots were coming from and thought there might have been a sniper, he has received national condemnation. President Donald Trump called him a coward, and Sheriff Scott Israel started an investigation into his actions, saying he should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”