The armed school resource officer tasked with defending the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stayed outside the building while the shooting took place, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday.
The officer, Scot Peterson, “was absolutely on campus through this entire event,” Israel said at a news conference. Video footage reportedly captured him in position on the west side of the building, but he did “nothing.”
“He never went in,” Israel said, according to CNN, noting that Peterson should have “(w)ent in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” Instead, Peterson allegedly waited outside for four minutes as suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people with an AR-15.
Israel described himself as feeling “devastated” and “sick to my stomach.”
“There are no words. These families lost their children. We lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals, I’ve been to the homes. … I’ve been to the vigils. It’s just — there are no words,” he added.
Peterson was suspended without pay, but has since resigned.
Meanwhile, two other deputies are on restricted leave after they received calls about Cruz prior to the shooting. Internal affairs is investigating whether they did enough to act on the warnings.
“In two of these cases, after being briefed by internal affairs, I’ve restricted two of our deputies while we delve further into this, to take statements and make a decision whether or not they could have done more or should have done more,” Israel said, as reported by NBC News. “It’s a fluid investigation. They are on restricted duty.”
These two deputies were identified as Edward Eason and Guntis Treijs
On of these calls were made in February 2016, when the sheriff’s office received what it said was “thirdhand information” that Cruz “planned to shoot up the school.” A deputy determined Cruz had knives and a BB gun in his possession, then alerted Stoneman Douglas’ resource officer, Peterson, according to The New York Times.
Peterson, an apparent military veteran, was hired as a sheriff’s deputy after working as a security guard and a stock clerk. During his tenure with the department, he was praised for his job performance, and was even nominated for deputy of the year twice.
But the revelation that Peterson allegedly stayed outside while the shooting took place has made him the subject of widespread criticism.
“Maybe they could’ve been saved,” said Lauren Noyola, a 16-year-old student survivor who lost three close friends in the shooting. “Maybe they could still be alive if he had gone inside and tried to stop something from happening,” she told NBC.
Samantha Fuentes, an 18-year-old senior who was shot in both of her legs, told The Times that she didn’t see Peterson as the shooting transpired.
“He is not someone who has much of a presence at the school,” she said.
According to WSVN, police officers were standing guard outside Peterson’s home on Thursday evening to prevent anyone from trying to talk to him.
“They prevented us from approaching the house,” WSVN’s Frank Guzman tweeted.
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