For all the talk of armed good guys stopping a bad guy, there was one trained and armed law enforcement officer who did not confront the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as the shooting was unfolding.
That sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer, Scot Peterson, still “believed he did a good job,” though, according to the New York Post, because he called in the location of the tragedy and gave a description of the shooter, a union official reports.
“He believed he did a good job calling in the location, setting up the perimeter and calling in the description [of the shooter],” Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association President Jim Bell said.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed during a press conference Thursday that Peterson was seen on a security camera at the west side of the building, but “he never went in” as, authorities say, Nikolas Cruz opened fire and killed 17 children and teachers, the Washington Post notes.
Peterson was initially suspended without pay pending an internal investigation, but as details began to circulate in the media, he resigned/retired.
Israel described being “devastated” and “sick to my stomach” by the discovery that Peterson had failed to respond.
“I mean, these families lost their children,” he added. “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. It’s just, there are no words.I’ve been to the vigils. It’s just, there are no words.”
Bell, for his part, also suggested that failing to engage Cruz was a mistake.
“We have to act, even if that means risking our lives to save many, many more lives. I would demand that from our union members,” Bell said. “You’re listening to an execution every time you hear the rifle shot.”
Israel noted that Peterson had the necessary time with the agency to meet the requirement for retirement. The Post noted that Peterson made a base annual salary of $75,673.72 as of 2016, a figure that did not include longevity and first-responder bonuses that probably brought his nonovertime pay closer to $80,000. His pension will be 75 percent of the average of his top five earning years, the union head noted.
Peterson’s decision amid the tragic incident has now raised questions about Donald Trump’s plans to arm “certain highly adept people” to stop a school shooting. There’s no knowing who will freeze in a desperate situation with an active shooter, regardless of how well trained and how well prepared they are.
In the meantime, parents and students in Florida are left to pick up the pieces and regroup, many of them fighting back and taking a stand so that this tragedy will never happen again.
On Friday, teachers were told that they could return to the school to collect belongings from the classrooms that have been cordoned off since the massacre. According to the Associated Press, the school is planning to hold an orientation on Sunday for teachers and students before restarting classes on Wednesday.
“Our new normal has yet to be defined, but we want to get back to it,” geography teacher Ernest Rospierski told AP.