The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has finally released video from outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school on the day of the shooting. The 27-minute video shows Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson walking and then taking a golf cart to a location on campus. He then appears to stand outside and do nothing for several minutes. From the Washington Post:
The video raises further questions about the actions of the officer, Scot Peterson, who was a Broward sheriff’s deputy assigned as the lone armed officer protecting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Peterson’s behavior during and after the gunfire have become the focus of intense scrutiny, with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel assailing him for not rushing inside to confront the gunman.
Peterson, who resigned after being suspended and is under investigation over his actions, has defended his response to the shooting by arguing that he believed the gunfire was coming from outside, rather than inside, a school building. Because of that, he said, he “took up a tactical position” to try to assess the situation…
The sheriff’s office released the 27-minute video clip, most of which comes from a stationary camera on the Stoneman Douglas campus, after being ordered to do so by a judge. Its release comes as the sheriff’s office has faced intense scrutiny for its response to the Feb. 14 shooting as well as how its deputies acted before and after the massacre.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that multiple other deputies responded to the school but remained outside, while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is reviewing the police response to the shooting. A state panel approved by lawmakers is also going to review the law enforcement response to the shooting and prior contacts that officials had with the suspected gunman, who had repeatedly come to the attention of police and the FBI before the massacre.
Yes, Peterson did claim he thought the gunfire was coming from outside, but that story was undercut when police dispatch audio was released last week. That audio revealed Peterson immediately identified the shots as coming from inside a specific building. “I think we have shots fired, possible shorts fired —1200 building,” Peterson said. He subsequently warned other officers to stay back at least 500 feet from the same building, apparently worried about their safety rather than the safety of the kids inside.
Initially, Sheriff Scott Israel said the video showing Peterson’s inaction might never be released. A lawsuit was filed by CNN, the Sun Sentinel, and the Miami Herald arguing there was intense public interest in the actions of Deputy Peterson. Then last week the Broward County Sheriff’s Office suddenly reversed itself and agreed the video should be released.
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
Why did it take more than a month and a lawsuit to get this information before the public? The result of this unnecessary delay was an intense media focus on one aspect of this incident: the gun used in the shooting and the partisan push for more gun control.
Meanwhile, the troubling failures at the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office have been partly shrouded from public view. There were certainly stories about those issues but no compelling video that could compete with the MSD students appearing on CNN every day. In fact, the students themselves took every opportunity to dismiss the failures of the FBI as a side issue.
This silent, grainy clip would have had a tremendous impact, in terms of public outrage and focus, if it had been released a week or even ten days after the shooting. You can see Deputy Peterson clearly near the beginning. For a moment it seems he’s riding to the rescue. Then, for most of the video, he’s just standing there doing nothing.
Update: The full video published by USA Today has been pulled down for some reason. Here’s an edited version put up by the Guardian.
Update: The Guardian video has been pulled. Hopefully, this clip from the Associated Press will stay up.