Surveillance video recorded how Broward County deputy Scot Peterson took up a position against a wall across from the school building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where on February 14, gunman Nikolas Cruz was unleashing bullets at students. The video, which was released under court order, showed that Peterson remained in position against the wall until well after Cruz had left, after killing 17 people.

Peterson, who was guarding the school of 3,200 students resigned after being suspended by the local sheriff in Parkland, Florida. Upon the release of the video, a statement from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said, “The video speaks for itself.” The statement added, “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.”

The video starts at  2:22 p.m. on February 14 and less than one minute after the Broward Sheriff’s Office said Cruz had entered the high school and began shooting with his semi-automatic rifle. In the video, Peterson is seen running toward a golf cart, at the time the first 911 call about the shooting is made to Coral Springs police department, according to a Sheriff’s Office timeline.

The video also shows people, whose images are blurred out, fleeing from a building. According to the sheriff office’s  timeline, Peterson said over his police radio: “Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers, I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired – 1200 building.” The video also shows a golf cart driving past the 700 building of the school, which is next to the building where the shooting was taking place. It shows Peterson walking to the 700 building and taking up a position by the wall, with a view of the building where Cruz was firing.

While Peterson remained in position, Cruz was still inside the 1200 building of the school and remained there for another three minutes before ridding himself of his rifle before fleeing. Peterson remained in position against the wall until just past 2:50 p.m. Cruz was already walking to a nearby Walmart. He was arrested about an hour later. 

At a February 22 press conference, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel criticized Peterson and said that the deputy should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”

While Peterson released a statement earlier this month and claimed that he thought at the time that Cruz was outside the school buildings, his own radio transmissions suggest he was focusing on the 1200 building, according to the Sheriff’s Office. At Gov. Rick Scott’s request, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has begun an investigation into the response to the shooting.  Prosecutors are calling for the death penalty for Cruz.

Recently released audio tapes reveal more details of law enforcement response to the shooting. Information from Scot Peterson is blamed for keeping police waiting outside the school while student dead and wounded inside. “I’m with Douglas’ SRO [school resource officer Peterson], getting info,” Coral Springs Officer Tim Burton radioed at 2:29 p.m, according to a recording of a call. Burton was waiting outside the school with rifle in hand but did not know that Cruz had already left the building.

The tapes, which were released by Coral Springs police, offer evidence that Peterson mishandled law enforcement response at its earliest stages. According to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, former Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said this week that police lost precious time because of misinformation it got from Peterson. “By not telling the shots were fired from the building, he made it sound like the shooter was out of the school.” Pustizzi said of Peterson, “Did he not know? He can hear the shots being fired.”
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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