Florida school shooting: Officer defends his actions after branded as 'coward'

The armed school officer who stayed outside during the 14 February Florida high school shooting defended his actions after President Donald Trump branded him as a 'coward' 

Officer Scot Peterson resigned after being suspended without pay (Photo:School Board of Broward County)
Officer Scot Peterson resigned after being suspended without pay (Photo:School Board of Broward County)

The armed school officer branded as a coward by US president Donald Trump has defended his actions during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Trump renewed his criticism of the deputy, saying he would have ran unto the building even if he did not possess a weapon.

Scot Peterson was outside the school when a gunman killed 17 people, but did not go inside as shots rang out.

His attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, said his client believed the gunfire was coming from outside the school.

He followed his training by taking cover and prompting a lockdown, the lawyer said.

DiRuzzo said it was "patently untrue" that Peterson was a coward on the day.

Peterson, a veteran officer who had been assigned to guard the high school, resigned last week after his boss, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, suspended him without pay.

Sheriff Israel said that footage from the scene had left him "devastated" and "sick to my stomach".

DiRuzzo accused the sheriff of "at best, gross oversimplification", saying he "jumped to a conclusion" about Peterson's behaviour.

Peterson said he had originally "received a call of firecrackers". Only when he ran towards the sound, he said, did he realise it was gunshots.

Broward Sheriff's Office had trained him to seek cover and assess the situation in the event of outdoor gunfire, his lawyer said. Peterson did so, and then told the sheriff's office he had heard shots, prompting a "Code Red" lockdown of the

school campus.

When police arrived, he told them he thought the gunman was outside - a belief backed up by "radio transmissions [which] indicated that there was a gunshot victim in the area of the football field," Peterson said.

The clarification came after Trump, addressing a gathering of 39 state governors at the White House, said officers who were outside the school at the time of the shooting “weren’t exactly medal of honor winners”.

Broward County Sheriff's Office is reportedly also investigating why three of its deputies appeared to remain outside the building with their guns drawn as the attack unfolded.

 “The way they performed was really a disgrace,” he added. “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”The 14 February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, in which 17 people were killed, has forced Congress to contend yet again with one of the most politically controversial issues.

President Donald Trump has pledged action on mental health and background checks, hosted a listening session with some students and teachers, and called for teachers to be armed with concealed firearms.

Students from the school have however founded a movement campaigning for gun control, which has seen them march on their state capitol.

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