Deputy Scot Peterson is the armed Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy who remained outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school during the shooting last month. Peterson was heavily criticized for his inaction and, through his lawyer, released a statement saying he, “believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of any of the buildings on the school campus.” Today the Miami Herald reports that audio recordings of police dispatch indicate Peterson knew almost right away that the shots were coming from a specific building.
Internal radio dispatches released by the sheriff’s office Thursday show Peterson immediately fixated on Building 12 and even radioed that gunfire was happening “inside.”
And, just as school shooter Nikolas Cruz was fleeing the building after killing 17 people, Peterson warned his fellow officers to stay away — even as wounded students and staff lay inside.
The paper offered this timeline of events showing Peterson had narrowed down the location of the shooter within two minutes of the start of the attack:
Cruz was dropped off at the school by an Uber at 2:19 p.m. Two minutes later, he entered Building 12. He began firing within 15 seconds. Peterson, at the time, was near the administration building.
At 2:22 p.m. the fire alarm was pulled, blaring throughout the entire campus. The first 911 call also went out, via Coral Springs emergency-dispatch center.
“Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shorts fired —1200 building,” Peterson radioed at 2:23 p.m.
At that moment, according to the video, Peterson arrived at the southeast corner of Building 12, where he appeared to remain “for the duration of the incident.”…
At 2:27 p.m., six minutes after Cruz went into Building 12, the shooting stopped. Cruz ditched his AR-15 in the third-floor stairwell and left.
Five seconds later, Peterson radioed for officers to “stay at least 500 feet away at this point.” A dispatcher repeated, “Stay away from 12 and 1300 building.”
Officers from nearby Coral Springs PD and two Broward Deputies finally entered the building at 2:32 pm, 11 minutes after Cruz started shooting. Finally, 10 officers entered the building together at 2:35 pm. Meanwhile, Cruz had ditched his gun and walked to a nearby Subway restaurant to get a drink. You can listen to the dispatch audio at the Miami Herald’s site.
Peterson’s warning to officers to stay “500 feet away” is directly contrary to what police are supposed to do in active shooter situations like this. The rule since Columbine is to go in and engage as soon as possible, not to wait hundreds of feet away until it’s safe.
Meanwhile, the Broward Sheriff’s Office also reversed course today on the decision not to release video from outside the school.
BSO agreed in court today with the media that surveillance video from outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High should be released publicly. Legal exemptions block the release unless a judge approves. The judge took it under advisement and we hope for a ruling shortly.
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) March 8, 2018
The sheriff’s office was sued by three media organizations who argued that there was intense public interest in what Deputy Scot Peterson was doing during the shooting. When I wrote about the lawsuit last week, I noted that Sheriff Scott Israel had said he would not release that video and that it might never be released. Just yesterday, the Sun-Sentinel editorial board wrote a piece again demanding the release of the video. The board wrote, “laws are being formed without the benefit of knowing what exactly happened.”
The Parkland student campaign for gun control, from the very beginning, tried to sidestep questions about the failures of the FBI and Broward police as if these were just distractions from the real issue. Sheriff Israel, a Democrat, became part of the rush to blame the NRA for what happened at CNN’s town hall. (He paid a price for being less than forthcoming later.)
Had this video been released weeks ago, I believe it would have re-focused a portion of the public outrage where it belongs, i.e. on the law enforcement failures that were part of this. And to be very blunt, I believe Sheriff Scott Israel knew this. But he had both a professional and a partisan motive to keep the video under wraps. In the interim, the push for gun control has completely dominated the media discussion.