Almost two weeks after choosing not to enter a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building to confront an active shooter — and resigning amidst an investigation into his handling of the school shooting — a lawyer for the school’s former school resource officer says that his client is not a “coward” and was merely responding to the situation as he believed it to be.
“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,” said Peterson’s lawyer Joseph A. DiRuzzo III.
As the shooting unfolded, DiRuzzo contended that Peterson believed the shooting was taking place outside, which led him to take shelter outside the building. He added that Peterson aided the SWAT team in evacuating students and looked at surveillance camera footage in an effort to locate the shooter.
The statement from DiRuzzo and Peterson came days after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel lit into Peterson in a press conference, according to the Miami Herald.
Sheriff Israel, Peterson’s former boss, announced that Peterson had been suspended without pay pending the investigation into his response, but Peterson tendered his resignation and applied for retirement instead. Peterson had accrued the time needed to retire with a pension.
The statement asks the public to await the results of the investigation of the day’s events, saying “Sheriff Israel acknowledged that the investigation remains ongoing and that ‘investigations will not be rushed or asked to jump to conclusions.'”
Last week, Sheriff Israel said Peterson waited for “upwards of four minutes” outside the building where 17 were killed and over a dozen injured. The shooting lasted around six minutes. In his words, Peterson “never went in,” a finding that “devastated” Israel and made him “sick.”
President Donald Trump jumped into the fray, saying Peterson “certainly did a poor job” and “didn’t react properly or [was] a coward.” Trump has suggested arming teachers and, today, said he would have run into Douglas High School and challenged the shooter himself, even unarmed.
“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened… he certainly did a poor job,” Trump told reporters last week.