SUNRISE, Fla. - The then-sheriff's deputy on campus during the Parkland high school massacre was scheduled to testify Thursday before a state commission investigating the shooting, but he failed to show.
Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson was subpoenaed to appear Thursday before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
An attorney for Peterson approached the podium instead and said his client would not attend the meeting and that he had a filed a complaint Thursday morning seeking to declare the subpoena of his client illegal.
"He's a piece of garbage," Max Schachter, whose son Alex, 14, was killed in the shooting told reporters. "He could have gone in and saved six children's lives and he chose to do nothing. After all those other officers went in to the line of fire, he stood behind a concrete pillar for 45 minutes and did nothing. He's a despicable human being."
Members of the panel were expected to ask Peterson why he didn't enter the building where 17 people were killed Feb. 14 and try to stop the shooter. Panel members said Wednesday that he was "not a real cop" and "a coward."
Peterson told investigators he didn't know where the shots were coming from and that he heard only two or three. His attorney did not respond to an email Wednesday seeking comment.
While Peterson was a no show, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and school Superintendent Robert Runcie both testified at Thursday's meeting.
"There are some questions about what they did or didn't do, beginning with Peterson, and there are some questions about those deputies that were up on Holmberg Road and why they stayed up there and why they didn't react," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "There are some questions about some of the delays in acting, but again, we have to look at it in its totality."
Runcie took to the podium shortly after Peterson's attorney addressed the panel, at which time Gualtieri, who is the commission chair, thanked him for his professionalism, transparency and cooperation with the investigation.
"I understand and appreciate the critical importance of the work of this commission and how it will inform the district practices and policies -- and not just here in Broward County -- but throughout the state of Florida and at a greater level on a national basis," Runcie said.
Runcie also apologized to the families who lost loved ones in the massacre.
"I am so, so sorry that you sent your kids to school on that day, like any other parent would, expecting them to return. And somehow, we failed to live up to that promise to you," he said. "I know there's nothing that we can do that's ever going to be enough to remove the loss, the pain, the hurt and the anger, but I'm committed to being present. I'm listening and providing whatever help, resources and assistance that we possibly can."
At least one of the victims' relatives said they were encouraged by Runcie's words.
"What I was encouraged by though was that he's viewing this as a 9/11 for the education system and so, if he will continue to follow through on that and actually make the changes and make security part of his responsibility, and he'll take an active role in making sure his schools are safe, then I'm optimistic we can have some changes," said Ryan Petty, whose daughter, Alaina, 14, was among those killed in the massacre.
Israel also faced tough leadership questions as the panel has suggested his deputies were not properly trained.
"Since this catastrophic event, we've been working at the Broward Sheriff's Office feverishly to do everything we can to not only keep children safe in school, but to make children feel safe in school," he said.
Public comments will be welcome at the end of Thursday's session.
Gualtieri asked those who attended the meeting to refrain from outbursts and to withhold any remarks until the public comment portion begins.
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