Scot Peterson wants the world to know that he’s not a coward.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Department deputy faced widespread criticism after reports that he took cover and remained outside Stoneman Douglas High School while a deadly shooting was taking place inside. Peterson was criticized by his own sheriff and many others, and resigned his position last week.
Peterson had remained quiet in the week and a half since the shooting that left 17 people dead, but now is speaking up to defend his actions. Speaking through a lawyer, Peterson said on Monday that he took the appropriate actions when the school shooting was starting to unfold.
As the Miami Herald reported, Peterson said he followed proper protocol by seeking cover and assessing the situation to communicate with other law enforcement officials.
“[His actions] were appropriate under the circumstances,” lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo said in a statement. “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.”
That is apparently not the view of President Donald Trump. Speaking to reporters over the weekend, Trump said Peterson either froze under the pressure of the situation or was a “coward” for his failure to act.
“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened. But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that,” Trump said, via USA Today. “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.”
Many others seemed to agree, with a number of pundits pointing to Peterson’s inaction as a contributing factor to the high body count. The shooting reportedly took place over the course of only a few minutes.
But Scot Peterson said he first responded to a report of firecrackers going off in the school, then realized it was gunfire and informed an officer from the Coral Springs Police Department that the shots were coming from inside the school, the New York Post reported.
Later reports indicated that as many as four sheriff’s deputies took cover behind cars during the school shooting rather than entering the building.
The school shooting has placed blame on a number of places, from the inaction of sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson to the failure of the FBI to follow up on a tip that the suspected shooter may have been planning violence. Many others are taking aim at the National Rifle Association for its efforts to stand in the way of gun reform.