Armed guard ‘did not confront’ Florida school shooter

Sheriff’s deputy resigns after ‘seeking cover behind concrete column’ during attack

The armed sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Florida high school where 17 people were shot dead has resigned after an internal investigation showed he failed to enter the school to confront the gunman during the attack. Video: Reuters

 

The armed sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Florida high school where 17 people were shot dead has resigned rather than face suspension after an internal investigation showed he failed to enter the school to confront the gunman during the attack, the county sheriff said on Thursday.

Deputy Scot Peterson, who was on duty and in uniform as the resource officer posted at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was the only law enforcement officer present on February 14th when the rampage started, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

Mr Peterson’s actions were caught on video during the massacre, which ranks as the second-deadliest shooting ever at a US public school, carried out by a lone gunman wielding a semiautomatic AR-15-style rifle.

Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, was later arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the assault.

“What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position and he never went in,” sheriff Israel said, referring to the building on campus where authorities said the bulk of the shooting occurred.

Sheriff Israel told reporters the shooting in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland lasted six minutes, and that Mr Peterson reached the building under attack about 90 seconds after the first shots were fired, then lingered outside for at least four minutes.

Asked what the deputy should have done, the sheriff replied, “Went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”

Surveillance video showed the deputy was doing “nothing,” the sheriff said, describing himself as “devastated, sick to my stomach.” “There are no words,” he said.

‘Seeking cover’

The sheriff, flanked by two of his top aides, appeared emotional during the news conference where he described the deputy’s conduct.

His eyes appeared to glisten, and his speech was sometimes halting. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that an officer from the Coral Springs police department who responded to the shooting had seen Mr Peterson in a Stoneman Douglas High parking lot. The deputy “was seeking cover behind a concrete column leading to a stairwell,” officer Tim Burton said.

Mr Peterson has not given a reason for why he did not enter the building, the sheriff said. Neither the deputy nor any representatives could immediately be reached for comment.

Sheriff Israel said he had decided on the basis of his review of the video to suspend Mr Peterson, but the deputy resigned first.

The sheriff said two other deputies have been placed on restricted duty pending an internal investigation into whether they properly handled two telephone tips, received in 2016 and 2017, warning that Mr Cruz might be inclined to commit a school shooting.

Authorities have said that Mr Cruz, who was expelled from Stoneman Douglas High last year for unspecified disciplinary problems, made his getaway moments after the shooting by blending in with students fleeing the school for safety.

Police officers arriving on the scene from the adjacent city of Coral Springs thought the gunman was still inside as they searched the building, based on a security camera video feed that they mistakenly believed was showing them real-time images but was actually footage from 20 minutes earlier.

Coral Springs police chief Tony Pustizzi told reporters on Thursday that the confusion stemmed from human error and a “communication failure,” not malfunctioning equipment. He insisted that the mishap did not put any lives in danger. –Reuters