Calls show deputy at Parkland shooting reported gunfire inside
The armed resource officer for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who didn’t enter the building where an active shooting was taking place said through his attorney that he thought the shots were coming from outside. But in dispatch audio of the incident, he said he had heard that it was “by, inside the 1200 building.”
The discrepancy was revealed in an updated timeline and dispatch audio of the Florida school shooting released Thursday by the Broward County Sheriff’s office.
Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, who worked as the school’s resource officer, was publicly shamed by Sheriff Scott Israel and President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the February 14 massacre that left 17 students and teachers dead.
Israel told reporters that when he saw video of Peterson staying outside Building 1200 and never going in, it made him “sick to his stomach.” Trump said Peterson “did a poor job” because he “didn’t have the courage” to do what he was trained to do.
Peterson initially defended himself in a statement through his attorney by saying he’d received a call about “firecrackers” and that he didn’t enter the building because he “believed those gunshots were originating from outside of any of the buildings on the school campus.”
The release of a more detailed timeline of law enforcement operations comes days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered an investigation into the response to the deadly shooting at the Parkland school.
The latest timeline does corroborate Peterson’s account about the reports of “firecrackers” but it contradicts his assertion that he thought the shots were being fired outside.
At 2:25 p.m., or about four minutes into the shooting, a deputy says over the radio “some students thought it was firecrackers, but we’re not sure, by the football fields.”
Peterson responds “We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200 building.”
“That contradicts the statement his attorney gave, that he didn’t know where the shots were fired. After multiple gun shots you would have to know where the shots were coming from,” said the head of the Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies Association Jeff Bell.
CNN’s calls to Peterson’s attorney were not immediately returned. Peterson resigned after he was suspended without pay.
According to the Broward County Sheriff’s active shooter protocol, if real-time intelligence exists and a sole deputy is on site, he “may” enter the structure to preserve life. It does not specify that the deputy “must” enter the structure.
Bell points out that Peterson also acted against everything deputies learn about an active shooter situation when he radios to responding officers to tell them to “stay at least 500 feet away” from the building.
“Our job is to eliminate the threat,” Bell said.
Peterson commanded incident for a time
According to the timeline, Peterson was the commanding officer during this incident for more than 10 minutes, until a captain took command of the scene.
During the first two to three minutes, he radioed, “I need to shut down Stoneman Douglas, the intersection.”
The first two Broward County Sheriff’s deputies who arrived on scene, according to the timeline, appear to follow his instructions and block the west-bound and east-bound lanes of Holmberg Road, the street on the north side of the school.
More than six minutes into the incident, Peterson radios “make sure no one comes inside the school.”
“Peterson is the eyes on the ground so it’s appropriate for him to relay that information and direct responding personnel,” Broward County Sheriff’s Col. Jack Dale said, regarding Peterson’s response.
While Bell said Peterson should have gone into the building to stop the shooter, he warned against passing judgment on the overall law enforcement response solely based on the recently released timeline and dispatch audio.
“All this is preliminary. Without getting all the radio transmissions, all the dispatch logs, it’s premature,” Bell said.