The Broward County deputy who resigned after revelations that he never entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Feb. 14 mass shooting issued a statement in his own defense through his lawyer, saying he is no coward.
“Allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue,” his lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo said in the statement.
Peterson “heard gunshots,” the statement says, but did not initially enter the building because he “believed those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings on the school campus.”
Meanwhile, suspected killer Nikolas Cruz, 19, was inside the school, shooting people with an AR-15 assault-style rifle.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Last Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced at a press conference that Peterson stood near an entrance of the high school for more than four minutes after Cruz allegedly began firing, and did nothing.
Citing a video capturing Peterson’s movements that day, Israel said the deputy “never went in.” He said the deputy “clearly” knew a shooter was inside the building, but stayed outside even though the Broward County Sheriff’s Office teaches deputies to take immediate action during an active shooting.
• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.
Israel said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach.”
“These families lost their children, we lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals. I’ve been to the homes where they’re sitting shiva. I’ve been to the vigils. There are no words.”
Peterson lawyer insists he did the right thing by following protocol, saying in the statement that his actions “were appropriate under the circumstances.”
During a shooting, the Sheriff’s Office trains its officers “to seek cover and assess the situation” to be able to communicate “what one observes with other law enforcement,” the statement says.
“Let there be no mistake,’’ the statement continued, “Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day.”