By PoliceOne Staff
PARKLAND, Fla. — The former school resource officer who was widely criticized for not confronting the gunman in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said he remains haunted by the massacre.
It’s been 90 days since former SRO Scot Peterson’s last shift at the Parkland high school, but Peterson said he’s still tormented by the massacre, the Washington Post reports. In February, gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and wounded many others in the shooting spree.
“It’s haunting,” Peterson said. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.”
Peterson has been criticized, including by including Sheriff Scott Israel and President Donald Trump, for not going inside the building where the shooting took place and confronting the gunman.
The former SRO initially said he did not believe that gunfire was happening inside Building 12, where Cruz spent six minutes unleashing gunfire. But audio and video released in the weeks after the shooting appeared to show that Peterson knew where the shots were coming from.
Peterson still maintains that he followed protocol. He said that he called in the shooting, locked down the school and cleared students from the courtyard.
“There wasn’t even time to think,” Peterson said. “It just happened and I started reacting.”
Peterson told the Post he was in his office dealing with a student’s fake driver’s license when he received a call about a “possible firecracker.” When he arrived, Peterson said he heard what sounded like gunshots but couldn’t tell if the sound was coming from inside or outside the building.
He added that the 911 calls describing the gunman and his location were routed to the Coral Springs Police Department, who communicate on a different radio system than the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Peterson said he didn’t receive the information.
Peterson recalled coming home from the shooting and trying to make sense of it.
“I couldn’t get him,” Peterson remembered telling his girlfriend. “It was my job, and I didn’t find him.”
Eight days following the massacre, the sheriff’s office called Peterson and said they reviewed the surveillance video of him standing against the wall while the shooting occurred. Israel offered Peterson indefinite suspension or retirement with full pension.
Peterson retired but said he still struggles with how things went down during the Feb. 14 shooting.
“They keep saying I did nothing, a coward,” Peterson said. “I just didn’t know. Why didn’t I know to go in?”