‘Why didn’t I go in?’ Parkland school resource deputy haunted by career-ending response to fatal shooting that killed 17 people

The disgraced deputy who failed to effectively intervene during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February has spoken publicly for the first time since Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire at the Parkland, Florida, high school, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more.

Scot Peterson, who had been a School Resource Deputy (SRD) for ten years before February’s fatal massacre, resigned after video surveillance footage showed that he never entered the school building where Cruz, 19, is believed to have fired up to 150 rounds after arriving to his former campus in an Uber close to the end of the school day on February 14.

Peterson was the only armed security guard at the school and had been trained to respond to an active shooter incident, according to a profile published Monday in the Washington Post.

Nearly four months after the deadly shooting, Peterson had remained in near-seclusion at his home in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he lives with his girlfriend Lydia Rodriguez. According to the Washington Post report, Peterson and Rodriguez keep the front door covered with a white sheet. A motion detector outside the duplex triggers the home alarm system.

Peterson, 55, has a lot of free time these days, and told the Washington Post that he spends most of it thinking about the shooting.

“It’s haunting,” Peterson said now. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.”

Peterson said in the interview that the first radio call he got about the shooting reported the sound of fireworks, and it was only after he was close enough to the building that he heard two loud noises that sounded more like gunfire. Because he couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from, he said he took cover while he surveyed the scene and called in a “Code Red” over the radio. He spent the next few minutes trying to determine where the shots were coming from; though many students had called 911 to report their exact location, those calls were routed to the Coral Gables Police, not the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, his employer.

It was all over in a matter of minutes, and Cruz blended in with the students and staff evacuating the building.

“I couldn’t get him,” Peterson said he remembered telling Rodriquez  “It was my job, and I didn’t find him.”

Peterson chose to retire from his position rather than take a suspension while his response was investigate. He has since been labeled “The Coward of Broward” and is facing at least one lawsuit from the grieving family of a student who was killed.

Peterson seems to understand where the anger is coming from, and continues to ask the same question of himself that’s at the center of the outrage.

“Why didn’t I know to go in?” he said during his interview with the Washington Post. 

But in other instances, he also seemed to be trying to defend himself, by pointing out that he only heard two shots and couldn’t identify where they were coming from, and that he believed he was following protocol. As the Washington Post describes, Peterson spends his days going over surveillance video and investigative documents, trying to better understand why he responded the way he did  — and perhaps to challenge some of the criticism aimed at him.

“How can they keep saying I did nothing?” Peterson reportedly said while looking through the documents.

“I’m getting on the radio to call in the shooting. I’m locking down the school. I’m clearing kids out of the courtyard. They have the video and the call logs. The evidence is sitting right there.”


[Feature image: Scot Peterson/Broward County Public Schools via Associated Press, File]