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Parkland Security Officer: 'Why Didn't I Know to Go In?'

Scot Peterson defends actions at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, also second-guesses himself
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2018 6:45 AM CDT
Updated Jun 4, 2018 6:51 AM CDT
In this Feb. 18, 2015, image, school resource officer Scot Peterson talks during a school board meeting of Broward County, Fla.   (Broward County Public Schools via AP, File)
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(Newser) – Eight security guards manned the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but only one had a gun—and that one resource officer says he now grapples daily with the 17 lives lost and 17 injured on his watch on Feb. 14. The Washington Post talks with Scot Peterson, now blasted in the media and in his community as everything from a "disgrace" and "an awful human being" to the "Coward of Broward" for not running inside to take down the gunman. Peterson says he's tried to piece together what happened that "haunting" day, just like everyone else. "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," he says. Still, reliving what happened during what the Post calls those "seven chaotic minutes," Peterson insists he reacted to what he knew in the moment and did what he could to mitigate it all.

He says the first call from another guard indicated firecrackers may have been going off, not gunshots. And Peterson says when he arrived on the scene, he couldn't tell where the sounds (which he then suspected were gunshots) were coming from, so he did what he says he was trained to do: "[take] cover in a tactical position so he could clear the area," which included calling in the shooting, putting the school on lockdown, and ushering kids out of the courtyard as he tried to figure out what was going on. "How can they keep saying I did nothing?" he says. "The evidence is sitting right there." Still, he's spent the last few months second-guessing himself and why he only heard "two or three" shots: "Why didn't I know to go in?" Meanwhile, Parkland parents are angry about an assault at the high school four years ago involving Peterson, as well as his $8,700-a-month pension. Peterson's side here. (Read more Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stories.)

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