The former Broward Sheriff's Office deputy at the scene of the deadly 2018 school shooting in Parkland spoke out Wednesday to defend his actions on that day.
"We were doing the best, every deputy on that scene was doing the best that we could at that moment, in the chaotic moments at the beginning with those shots being fired," Scot Peterson told reporters. "There is no way in hell that I would sit there and allow those kids to die with me being next to another building and sitting there, no way, and anybody who knows me would tell you, that's not Deputy Peterson."
PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING
Peterson made his comments at a news conference at his attorney's Fort Lauderdale office where he responded to a recent deposition of former BSO Sheriff Scott Israel.
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Peterson and his attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said that Israel admitted in the August deposition that Peterson didn't know "precisely where the shooter was during the shooting" and Peterson followed the department's active shooter policy by initially taking cover.
"Peterson...was never provided any real time intelligence from BSO dispatch of the location of the shooter and/or that anyone was being shot," Eiglarsh said in a press release. "These newly released remarks are a drastic change from what Israel selectively announced to the world during a press conference on February 22, 2018."
At Wednesday's news conference, Eiglarsh said Peterson believed there was a sniper.
"Believing that there was sniper fire, he didn't stand there doing nothing, he went to his training, and his training instructs him to take a tactical position of cover, that's what he did," Eiglarsh said. "They labeled his tactical position of cover some type of hiding in the corner and doing nothing."
Eiglarsh said there was a lot of confusion among Peterson and other deputies and officers of where the shots were coming from.
"So imagine his confusion, he hears shots from outside, he's hearing deputies report there's shots hundreds of yards away, he's trying to ascertain where the shooter is, yet Sheriff Israel will have you believe that my client in real time knows where the shooter is and that he's killing kids in the 1200 building. That didn't happen," Eiglarsh said. "My client never neglected any children. On the contrary, he did everything he possibly could to help the children in that school. If he was given the proper information in real time, he would have gone in and killed the killer, if that was even possible."
In August, Peterson was in a Broward County courtroom asking a judge to dismiss charges against him stemming from the shooting that killed 17 students and staff.
The defense team for Peterson argued he was not a caregiver to the students under a Florida statue.
On the day of the shooting, Peterson took cover while the gunman - Nikolas Cruz - fired 140 rounds from an AR-15 rifle inside the building shooting students, an investigation found. A total of 17 people died as a result of the shooting.
“I didn’t do anything there to try to hurt any child there on the scene,” Peterson said. “I did the best that I could with the information. I did the best ... I’ll never forget that day. You know, not only kids died, I have friends that died. And never for a second would I sit there and allow anyone to die, knowing that animal was in that building! Never!”
Peterson retired shortly after the shooting and was later fired. He faces 11 counts, including child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. If convicted, he faces a potential maximum prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
A lawsuit filed by the parents of Meadow Pollack, one of the students killed in the tragedy, was upheld by an appeals court in 2019 against Peterson after his lawyers argued it should be dismissed because of a law aimed to shield government employees from personal liability.
The panel upheld the previous ruling from a Broward judge citing that the law has an exemption for when employees “act in bad faith or with malicious purpose.”
"I live every day, I feel for those families, those kids that were shot, that were injured, the ones that were killed, and they don't know the truth, these families have not learned the truth of what happened on that day," Peterson said Wednesday.