An armed school resource deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida stood outside the building and did "nothing" while a shooter opened fire on students and teachers, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday.
"Devasted," Israel said of his reaction at seeing video footage that showed the deputy taking a position outside the building, but never going in during the rampage that killed 17. "Sick to my stomach. There are no words."
Israel identified the deputy as Scott Peterson.
After surveillance video captured the deputy standing outside the building, Israel said he was placed on unpaid leave.
Peterson has since filed for retirement.
Video of the school shooting showed Peterson arriving at the west end of the school's Building 12, Israel said, then taking a position where he could see the entrance to the building.
"He never went in," Israel said.
The revelation was announced as law enforcement continue to investigate how the Feb. 14 shooting unfolded, and as politicians are once again embroiled in the issue of gun control. On Wednesday, President Trump voiced support for the idea of arming teachers or school staff in an effort to prevent another school shooting.
Asked what Peterson should have done, Israel answered: "Went in. Address the killer. Kill the killer."
Israel said the decision to place the deputy on leave was made after officials interviewed witnesses and Peterson himself.
As shots began to ring out at the school, Peterson was away at an office dealing with a school issue. Israel added that the deputy was armed and in uniform.
According to surveillance video, the school resource deputy arrived at the building about a minute after the shooting began.
"I think he remained outside upwards of four minutes," Israel said.
The entire shooting, officials have said, lasted about six minutes before the suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, dropped his AR-15 rifle and walked out of the building, trying to blend in as one of the fleeing students.
In 2014, Peterson was named school resource officer of the year for the City of Parkland district. According to a program from the awards ceremony at the time, he had been at that position since 2009.
"Deputy Peterson has proven to be reliable in handling issues with tact and judgement," the program read. "Through 2014, Deputy Peterson conducted numerous investigations and follow-ups entailing property crimes, assaults, and narcotics violations. Deputy Peterson is also active in mentoring and counseling students."
Israel said the department is also reviewing the actions of deputies who responded to Cruz's home 23 different times since 2008 for issues related to Cruz or his brother.
"Some of the calls we responded out and met with his mother," Israel said.
Two deputies who responded to two calls have also been "restricted," he said. Officials have reviewed the 23 calls but are looking more closely at those two calls to see if they, "should have done more."
On Feb. 5, 2016, a deputy received third-hand information from the son of a neighbor who said Cruz "planned to shoot up the school," according to a post on Instagram that had been posted a month earlier.
The deputy, according to the department, determined Cruz had knives and a BB gun and forwarded the information to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High's school resource officer.
Then on Nov. 30, 2017, someone called law enforcement to report that Cruz was "collecting guns and knives."
The caller also reported that Cruz wanted to join the Army, and was concerned he would kill himself and "could be a school shooter in the making." The caller made the call from Massachusetts, according to the sheriff's department.
The deputy referred the caller to the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, where Cruz was reportedly living at the time.
Those two calls and the deputies who handled them, Israel said, are now part of an internal affairs investigation.
The FBI has also admitted that it dropped the ball in following up on red flags concerning Cruz, including a tip that was not referred to the Miami field office for investigation.
Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Salvador Hernandez at email@example.com.
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