Animation breaks down cops’ response to Parkland massacre
Scot Peterson, the disgraced school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who failed to act when a former student shot and killed 17 people and injured 17 more, did not show up at the state commission where he was subpoenaed to testify Thursday.
Instead, Peterson is suing the commission created to investigate the Feb. 14 massacre — and he’s started a GoFundMe page to raise $150,000 for a legal defense fund.
His lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo, made a brief appearance before the commission to inform members that Peterson would not appear and to hand-deliver a lawsuit, which seeks to quash the commission’s subpoena.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, chairman of the commission, said the panel was caught off guard. He said DiRuzzo had not communicated with the commission.
“When he showed up here this afternoon, he wouldn’t communicate with us,” Gualtieri said of the lawyer. “He wouldn’t tell us if Peterson was here or not. We heard what you [the audience] heard for the first time.”
After his surprise announcement, DiRuzzo quickly exited the packed hearing at the BB&T Center in Sunrise and declined to speak with a reporter. But he did send an emailed statement and a copy of the lawsuit.
In the statement, DiRuzzo said the commission was not acting as a “neutral fact-finding body” but had “succumbed to the not-so-thinly-veiled personal agendas of the commission members.” It also points out that Stoneman Douglas administrators were supposed to do a ”threat assessment” of Cruz after Peterson investigated allegations he had ingested gasoline, and argues that Peterson followed Broward’s active shooter training.
Peterson’s lawsuit argues that the commission is exceeding its statutory authority and asks a Broward judge to strike down its subpoena. It also says Gualtieri should be removed as chairman.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said he did not take the lawsuit seriously.
“That’s always warm and makes you feel really good,” Judd said.
Commission member Max Schachter, whose son Alex was among those killed that day, asked if Peterson could be held in contempt. Gualtieri said the commission would need to review the hand-delivered pleadings.
Peterson would have faced harsh questions from the commission. He was armed and on duty when former student Nikolas Cruz walked into Stoneman Douglas’ freshman building and opened fire. But Peterson failed to enter the building and told other BSO deputies responding to stay away — in violation of standard active-shooter protocols. He then mistakenly told first responders that Cruz was still in the building when he had in fact already fled.
“Not only is he making things up, he’s creating more confusion and delaying the response,” said commission member Ryan Petty, whose daughter, Alaina, was killed in the attack.
Peterson has not spoken publicly since he gave an interview to NBC’s Today show in June. He defended himself in that interview, saying he did not know the gunshots were coming from inside the building, also known as the 1200 building.
But investigators for the commission presented compelling evidence Wednesday and Thursday that that was not the case.
“I think we’ve got shots fired. Possible shots fired. 1200 building,” Peterson said over the radio less than two minutes after Cruz opened fire.
“We’re talking about the 1200 building,” he said soon after.
One first responder said as law enforcement officers converged on the building, Peterson told him the shooter was on the second or third floor.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel announced Peterson’s resignation eight days after the shooting, saying Peterson made him “sick to his stomach.”
“It’s a bunch of lies,” Gualteri said of how Peterson would later seek to explain his conduct. “It’s fictitious.”
Peterson has been receiving an $8,700 monthly pension, according to media reports. As of Thursday afternoon, no one had donated to his GoFundMe page.
Andrew Pollack’s daughter Meadow was slain in the attack. Pollack attended the meeting — and said he wasn’t surprised Peterson, whom he is suing in a wrongful-death lawsuit, didn’t show.
“He’s a coward,” Pollack said. “He could have saved my daughter.”