wplg logo

Scot Peterson says he responded as best he could based on initial info he had in Parkland shooting

Attorney: Former sheriff’s deposition supports ex-deputy’s innocence

(WPLG)

PARKLAND, Fla. – An attorney for former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson says former Sheriff Scott Israel’s statements during a recent deposition prove that Peterson didn’t know where the gunman was during the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and that him taking a “tactical position of cover” was consistent with the belief that there could have been a sniper in the area targeting the building.

On Tuesday evening, attorney Mark Eiglarsh released over five minutes of video from Israel’s deposition from Aug. 4, in which the former sheriff said he did not believe that Peterson, 58, intentionally acted in bad faith by failing to enter the 1200 building as Nikolas Cruz was carrying out the massacre that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.

“I don’t think at any point he should have known precisely -- unless he sees the killer -- where the killer is firing from,” Israel said.

Israel also acknowledged that Peterson did not have information “in real time” that people were being killed because the initial 911 call was dispatched to the Coral Springs Police Department, which operates on a different radio system.

“That’s a huge failure. Absolutely huge failure,” Israel said.

WATCH: Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s deposition with attorney Mark Eiglarsh.

An attorney for former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson says former Sheriff Scott Israel’s statements during a recent deposition prove that Peterson didn’t know where the gunman was during the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“If your radios – BSO’s radios – were patched with Coral Springs’ radios, my client would have had a lot more helpful real-time intelligence. Isn’t that correct?” Eiglarsh asked Israel.

“That is correct,” Israel said.

Despite Israel’s deposition, the former sheriff told the South Florida SunSentinel earlier this month that he believes those statements do not justify Peterson’s decision to not enter the 1200 building.

“I believe as then-sheriff, that former Deputy Peterson should absolutely have gone into the 1200 building,” Israel told the SunSentinel. “It wasn’t a training issue or a policy issue. It was an issue of courage. I’ve never wavered from that position.”

Peterson, however, was present at a Wednesday morning press conference at his attorney’s office and said not only did he believe the shots were coming from outside, but he said there was confusion after a deputy reported on the radio that there were shots fired near the football field, which was hundreds of yards away, and then another deputy reported that there was a shooting at a nearby middle school.

WATCH: Full news conference with Scot Peterson:

Former Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson defended his actions Wednesday during the Parkland school shooting that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.

Eiglarsh said there were seven other deputies who also did not immediately enter the building and Peterson claimed to not know that the shooting had occurred inside the 1200 building until about 30 minutes later.

“On Feb. 14 of 2018, on that day, we responded at the last hour, at fourth period, we responded to a firecracker call. It was not a call of active gunfire,” Peterson said. “I arrived at that scene, and when I got there, I heard two to three shots outside. I immediately got on my radio and I reported ‘Shots fired.’ I then went on my school radio to lock down the school, to safeguard the 3,200 kids on that campus.”

Eiglarsh defended his client’s actions, saying that he wasn’t “hiding” as many have criticized him of doing, but said that he was taking a position that he is trained to take and that he immediately ordered the school’s unarmed security guard to leave the area as Peterson remained at the scene.

“I’ve been trained for 30 years, you don’t stand outside when there’s gunfire right outside, so I looked for the closest position of tactical cover, which was the 700 building, and that’s where I moved to, and at that moment I became the incident commander on the scene, still not knowing at all, never knowing, that there was a shooter or shooters inside that building shooting students and staff,” Peterson said. “I never once when I was at that 700 building knew that.”

Peterson acknowledged that he was communicating on both his BSO radio and school-issued radio at the time, and parents of MSD students told Local 10 News that Peterson should have known something was going on in the 1200 building based on information coming in through his school radio from Coach Aaron Feis.

Peterson’s attorney, however, says his client did not hear Feis report a shooting over the school radio.

“Absolutely not! If that ever occurred, which I doubt, my client NEVER heard Feis report anything,” Eiglarsh told Local 10 News after the news conference. “That’s what he was trying to say during the press conference, but didn’t want to speak ill of his murdered friend. My client wishes he heard the information that Feis knew.”

“I just spoke to my client who said that if there were any credible reports of Feis announcing that on the school radio, it would have been in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission Report. Nothing in that report indicates that,” Eiglarsh added.

Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon have been hailed heroes after they were both killed when they entered the building.

Geography teacher Scott Beigel also died a hero, unlocking his classroom door to let students inside who were running for safety.

“There were two coaches, Aaron Feis and Chris Hixon, who ran into the building when they heard the shots. What do you say to people who wonder why they ran into the building while you took cover?” Local 10 News reporter Madeleine Wright asked Peterson.

“OK, to kind of correct you, when we received the call, the call was not of shots. We received a call of firecrackers,” Peterson responded.

Peterson is charged with child neglect and perjury. Eiglarsh wants the charges dismissed and argued in an August hearing that his client is not a caregiver — a parent, adult household member or teacher — and therefore shouldn’t be charged with child neglect.

Peterson is also named in more than 30 civil lawsuits for failing to confront the shooter.

“There is no way in hell that I would sit there and allow those kids to die with me being next to another building,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9. His attorney said Peterson would not take any plea deals.

“Unlike Nikolas Cruz, who was guilty and plead guilty, my client is not pleading guilty because he did nothing wrong,” Eiglarsh said.


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.

Madeleine Wright is a general assignment reporter for Local 10 News. She joined the team in March 2017.