Wow. The more answers we get, the more questions we have.
Amid a national debate over who should or shouldn’t have guns in schools, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel on Thursday dropped a stunner: Scot Peterson, a school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, assigned to protect those inside, apparently stood armed, but frozen, outside the freshman building as young lives were being snuffed out as screams and the stutter of bullets from Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15 bullets filled the air.
Peterson, a uniformed deputy, never went inside the school building where the horror was unfolding, Israel revealed at a news conference. Peterson’s lack of action was captured on video, Israel said. “I’m devastated, the sheriff said. “Sick to my stomach.”
According to Israel, the deputy took a position outside the building, “and he never went in.”
When asked by reporters what the deputy should have done, Israel said: “Went in and addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” That was his job, his duty.
Israel announced that Peterson resigned, retiring from the force.
So much for the highly anticipated “good guy with a gun.”
Students and parents’ anguish must even be more unbearable now.
As authorities work to piece together how 19-year-old Cruz managed to carry out his horrible massacre, disturbing revelations keep coming to light. Peterson’s dereliction of duty is just the latest.
We learned last week that the mighty FBI failed to follow up on tips about Cruz’s threatening behavior and declaration, on social media, no less, that he wanted to be a “professional school shooter.”
If the FBI had followed through, Cruz, maybe, just maybe, might have been stopped. There were plenty of signs he was a troubled young man and spiraling downward both before and after his mother died last fall.
Then there are those calls that the BSO received between 2010 and 2016 that brought officers to Cruz’s home 39 times. In September 2016, deputies were called to quell a fight between Cruz and his mom. The deputy noted that the teen suffered from mental illness. Cruz’s mother revealed her son had been cutting himself.
But a therapist on the scene deemed Cruz no threat to himself or anyone else, even though it was known he had mentioned wanting a firearm.
On Thursday, came another blow that the resource officer spent four minutes paralyzed outside the building as death and mayhem raged.
Ever since the Columbine, armed first responders have been told to track down the active shooter and kill him. No waiting for backup. A 30-year veteran, Peterson obviously couldn’t do it. He stepped down on Thursday after he was suspended without pay by Israel pending an internal investigation into his actions.
And what a difference Peterson’s presence could have made. How many lives would have been spared if Peterson had at least distracted Cruz from his six-minute mission to kill. Petersen obviously feared for his own life. That’s understandable. And it’s likely he was outgunned, fueling the sheriff’s announcement Wednesday that school officers would carry rifles from now on.
Questions remain about those 39 calls to Cruz’s home. Israel should make clear he intends to answer them, swiftly and publicly.