Broward County school resource officer Scot Peterson was designated the "coward of Broward" after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. Leading figures, even President Trump, publicly condemned Peterson for failing to enter the building where the shooter was on his rampage, eventually killing 17 people. Peterson was armed and could have confronted the shooter, yet he remained outside the building for minutes. The officer is breaking his silence for the first time since the tragedy to answer the criticisms and to explain the factors surrounding his perceived inaction.
"Would you acknowledge that in this really important moment, you missed it?" NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie asked.
"I live with that, how could I not?" Peterson admitted.
"I'm human," Petersen added. "If I would've known, knowing what I know today. I would've been in that building in a heartbeat. It's my kids."
Guthrie asked Petersen what kind of information he was getting while he was stationed outside the building. He said it was minimal.
EXCLUSIVE: Scot Peterson, the armed officer who never entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the school shooting in February, speaks out to @SavannahGuthrie.— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) June 4, 2018
See more of this story tonight on @NBCNightlyNews and the full interview tomorrow on the @TODAYshow. pic.twitter.com/4R3kNI97RT
Peterson recalled racing to the 12 building. As he approached, he heard two shots. He "immediately stopped," thinking the shots were outside and that somebody was shooting at them. He "never believed" there was an active school shooter inside.
Parkland school resource officer Scot Peterson shares his moment-by-moment account of what he says happened on the day of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School pic.twitter.com/lJqjNpLQFc— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 5, 2018
"It's a hurricane proof building - it's hard to hear," he explained.
To make matters worse, there was a breakdown in communication. Emergency calls coming from the school were rerouted to the town next door, not the sheriff's office.
"So your dispatcher, nobody's giving you any information," Guthrie asked.
"No intel," he nodded. "No real time intelligence whatsoever."
Guthrie, speaking for enraged parents, pressed Peterson as to why he never entered the building, especially considering there had been so many school shooting in the U.S. lately. He believed he was doing his duty because he was "trained to contain the area," he responded.
"Things went so fast," he said. "I never had a chance."
Some families of the victims did not accept Petersen's explanation.
Scot Peterson, you were not a victim and so stop with this crap. You created victims. My daughter was one of them. She was on the 3rd floor and you could have saved her life. You are not making things better with your interviews. They are not "your kids" as you say.— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) June 4, 2018
Mr. Guttenberg's statement was retweeted by Hunter Pollack, whose sister Meadow was killed in the February shooting. He added that Peterson's explanation made him "cringe."
This made me cringe, Deputy Peterson is the coward of Broward. Crying to the @TODAYshow will not change the truth. He should’ve went in the building and addressed the shooter. Story over. https://t.co/fB6DKpYOP6— Hunter Pollack (@PollackHunter) June 5, 2018
At the 2018 MSD graduation over the weekend, Hunter accepted Meadow's diploma on her behalf. She was one of four students, the others being Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Carmen Schentrup, to receive posthumous diplomas.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduates with 4 empty chairs.— Dawn Young-McDaniel (@justdawn_) June 3, 2018
If that doesn’t shake government leaders to the core, I don’t know what would.
This photo is of Joaquin “Guac” Oliver’s mom accepting his diploma??
And the other: Meadow Pollack, Carmen Schentrup & Nicholas Dworet#MSDStrong pic.twitter.com/faEF7wMg6o