An attorney for Scot Peterson, a Broward County school resource officer who did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he heard shots fired on Feb. 14, has spoken out in defense of his client.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, is the suspect in the deadly mass shooting, which took the lives of 17 people and injured many more.
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Attorney Joseph A. DiRuzzo said in a Monday statement that he believes Peterson is receiving the brunt of criticism and "uncalled for attacks upon his character" over widely reported claims that Peterson froze instead of heading into the school to fend off Cruz's reported attack.
President Donald Trump has even spoken out against Peterson, making comments at last week's CPAC gathering that the officer either "didn't react properly" while "under pressure," or was a "coward."
"When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened," Trump said. "But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that. That's a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or under pressure or they were a coward. It was a real shock to the police department."
During a Thursday news conference, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel also expressed his disappointment in Peterson's perceived inaction, which he said left him "devastated" and "sick to his stomach."
Now, however, Peterson says that he is suffering as a result of being "maligned" by Israel's public statements.
"Sheriff Israel held a press conference a mere eight days after the tragedy and accused Mr. Peterson of failing to respond appropriately, with the clear implication that Mr. Peterson was responsible for failing to help the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," DiRuzzo said in a Monday statement. "Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need."
The statement continued, "However, the allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue. Mr. Peterson is confident that his actions on that day were appropriate under the circumstances and that the video (together with the eyewitness testimony of those on the scene) will exonerate him of any subpar performance."
DiRuzzo, according to WTVJ-TV, confirmed that Peterson did not enter the school building, and, instead, took up a tactical position outside the facility because he reportedly believed that the noise of the shots were coming from an outdoor source.
"BSO trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek cover and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes to other law enforcement," DiRuzzo's statement added. "Consistent with his training, Mr. Peterson 'took up a tactical position between the 700-800 buildings corridor/corner.'"
DiRuzzo added that Peterson "had the presence of mind" to have school administrators retrieve and review the video on the school's closed-circuit cameras to "to locate the shooter and the obtain a description for law enforcement."