Former Broward County sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was widely condemned for his failure to enter Stoneman Douglas high school as Nikolas Cruz shot at students.
He previously claimed publicly that he believed the gunfire was coming from outside the school, but recent police dispatches released this week by the Broward County Sheriff’s office reveal that at the very least, Peterson also believed the shots were coming from inside Building 12.
According to a February 26 statement issued by his lawyer defending his reaction to the shooting, Peterson “heard gunshots but believed those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings on the school campus,” and as a result, took up a tactical position outside.
But the recordings released Thursday paint a somewhat different — and chaotic — sequence of events. Though one officer says he has heard shots fired by the football field, Peterson says on the dispatch that he hears possible shots fired from inside the 1200 building. “Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers, I think we have shots fired, possible shots fire — 1200 building,” he tells the dispatcher.
Essentially, the conversation between officers acknowledges possible shots fired both near the football field and in the 1200 building. This becomes even more confusing when, about a minute later, one officer says students are running toward the football field.
Then, references to building 1300 and 900 are also made, though it is not clear which officer is making them.
Further perplexing is Peterson’s apparent decision to tell other officers to stay away from two areas where the attacks were presumably taking place.
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building. Stay at least 500 feet away at this point,” he tells other officers. Though he does not identify himself before issuing that directive, the Palm Beach Post attributes this quote to him.
Unfortunately, the dispatch recordings create more confusion than clarity, leaving it difficult to discern exactly what happened and how officers reacted (Anti-Media advises all readers to listen to the recording themselves).
Regardless, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel criticized Peterson for his reaction last month, saying he should have entered the building in an effort to stop Cruz’s fire. Three other officers at the scene while the shooting occurred also reportedly remained outside, hiding behind their vehicles.
As these developments unfold, Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson is set to review security camera footage from outside the school during the shooting before deciding whether it should be released to the public. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, along with the Miami Herald, CNN, and other media outlets have sued to force the sheriff’s office and high school to release the video, which reportedly does not show anyone being shot.
Though Israel has claimed he wants the public to see the video, both the police department and the school say “the footage is protected from disclosure under the state’s public records laws,” the Sun-Sentinel reports. Further, the school’s assistant principal, Max Rosario, says releasing the footage could further endanger the school. “My concern is that it’s going to expose our blind spots,” Rosario said on the stand. “Any individuals would be able to come on campus knowing where they could go without being recorded.” An attorney for the school made a similar argument, asserting it could compromise the entire school district’s security systems.
But as Dana McElroy, an attorney for the news organizations argued, “These records don’t have anything to do with the crime, but the response.” Considering the chaotic and indisputably inadequate response from law enforcement as the massacre unfolded, her argument that “The focus of our inquiry is to evaluate the government’s actions in response to the shooting” seems appropriate.
In a similar show of apparent incompetence, the FBI’s deputy director admitted during a congressional hearing this week that they missed two clear opportunities to stop Cruz before he killed 17 people on February 14.