PARKLAND, Fla. – As gun fire erupted within Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the armed deputy who was tasked with protecting the children of the Parkland community is accused of taking cover to protect himself instead of doing what he had been paid and trained to do.
When faced with the realization Thursday that he was going to be suspended without pay, Sheriff Scott Israel allowed Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson to resign/retire, which would make him eligible for whatever benefits and pay he might be entitled to receive.
While Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle to kill 17 people, Peterson was armed and in uniform. Israel said he was seen "taking up a position" outside of the west side of building 12 during the massacre, "and he never went in."
According to a Coral Springs police officer, Peterson hid behind a concrete column near the stairs. Israel said Cruz began shooting at 2:21 p.m., and exited the building about 2:27 p.m. Peterson, who towers over 6 feet tall, was outside the building for four minutes, according to Israel.
His actions appeared to contradict what his superiors expected of him. They were also inconsistent with his most recent employee evaluation stating that he took "pride in protecting the students, faculty and staff" and "was dependable and reliable."
Sgt. Greg Molamphy nominated him as the Parkland Deputy of the Year in 2017. In a memo Molamphy sent to Lt. Michael DeVita, he wrote Peterson handled "issues that arise with tact and solid judgment."
BSO hired Peterson in 1985 after he studied at Miami Beach Senior High School, Miami Dade College and Florida International University. Records show he was transferred to the school resource officer program in 1991. Three years later, the Florida Association of School Resource Officers recognized him with the most outstanding school resource officer in the state award.
The 54-year-old veteran had been working at MarjoryStoneman Douglas High School since 2009, according to Parkland records. Israel said that he "resigned/retired" from his position as school resource officer Thursday, after learning from Lt. Barry Lindquist that he was under investigation.
He received numerous awards during his tenure. In 2013, Parkland officials named him Broward County Sheriff's Office Parkland employee of the year. The department recognized Peterson as SRO of the Year for proving "to be reliable in handling issues with tact and judgment" in 2014.
Records show his base pay was over $100,000 a year in 2013 and 2014, but dropped to about $75,800 in 2015. His overtime pay remained about the same during those three years.
After recognizing his 30 years of service in 2015, Israel wrote that Peterson's "dedication and allegiance" were "the best illustrations of the service BSO provides."
That same year, the Sun Sentinel reported he was among the police officers who were living for free on school property in exchange for after-hours campus security. Records show he had been living at Atlantic Technical College in Margate since 2000 and applied for a home loan in 2015.
Broward County incident reports show that unidentified callers contacted authorities with concerns about Cruz in February 2016 and November 2017, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resource officer received the information. The first caller reported having third-hand information that Cruz was planning to shoot up the school.
Israel said the investigation will continue, and two other unidentified BSO deputies were placed on administrative duties over their handling of tips reported about Cruz's prior threats.