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Trump suggests cop who hid from Florida gunman a 'coward'



  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas's resource officer Scot Peterson 'never went in' during the massacre 
  • According to a union official, Peterson thinks he did a good job because he called in the location of the shooting and got a description of the attacker  
  • An officer claims Peterson hid behind a cement column during the shooting 
  • Sheriff Scott Israel said he should've gone 'in, addressed the killer, and killed'
  • Israel said Peterson's lack of action made him 'sick to [his] stomach'
  • Peterson received award in 2014 for 'tact and judgment' from City of Parkland
  • The 54-year-old was nominated for Parkland deputy of the year in 2017 
  • Peterson had been told in 2016 about Cruz's Instagram posts about opening fire at a school 

By Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent and Abigail Miller For Dailymail.com

Published: 09:55 EST, 23 February 2018 | Updated: 16:06 EST, 23 February 2018

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The campus cop who failed to intervene when Nikolas Cruz started murdering his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week didn't 'love the children,' President Donald Trump accused on Friday.

At a White House news conference, Trump ripped the former resource officer, Scot Peterson for a third time since his identity was revealed, having earlier suggested the officer was a 'coward.'

'You had a gun, and he was outside as a guard and he decided not to go in. That was not his finest moment. That I can tell you. He waited, and he didn't want to go into the school,' Trump said. 'We need people that can take care of our children. We're not going to let this happen again.'

The campus cop who failed to intervene when Nikolas Cruz started murdering his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week 'didn't love the children,' President Donald Trump accused on Friday
The campus cop who failed to intervene when Nikolas Cruz started murdering his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week 'didn't love the children,' President Donald Trump accused on Friday

The campus cop who failed to intervene when Nikolas Cruz started murdering his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week 'didn't love the children,' President Donald Trump accused on Friday

Trump said that if would-be 'coward' shooters know that 'bad things are going to happen' if they go on murderous rampages at schools 'by people that love the children' they'll be dissuaded from taking up arms in the first place.

'See, a security guard doesn't know the children, doesn't love the children. This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn't love the children,' he stated. 'Probably doesn't know the children. The teachers love their children. They love their pupils. They love their students. They're doing it also from love.' 

President Trump had already scolded the officer, who is said to have been active in 'mentoring and counseling' students, two times prior on Friday morning.

First, told White House reporters that Peterson 'did a poor job,' and then, at a conservative conference, he said schools would be 'better off' with armed teachers instead of armed security guards.

'What he did, he's trained his whole life...When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn't have the courage or something happened,' Trump said as he prepared to board Marine One on the South Lawn. 'But he certainly did a poor job. There's no question about that. He was there for five minutes, for five minutes, that was during the entire shooting, he heard it right at the beginning.

'So he certainly did a poor job,' Trump repeated. 'But that's a case where, somebody who was outside, they're trained, they didn't react properly under pressure or they were a coward. It was a real shot to the police department.'

Speaking later in the morning at the nation's largest gathering of conservatives in National Harbor, Maryland, Trump piled on. 'He was not a credit to law enforcement. That I can tell you,' the president said.

Scot Peterson is seen speaking at a February 2015 school board meeting. Peterson was the school resource officer on duty during last week's Florida school shooting. He failed to engage the shooter and has since resigned in disgrace
Scot Peterson is seen speaking at a February 2015 school board meeting. Peterson was the school resource officer on duty during last week's Florida school shooting. He failed to engage the shooter and has since resigned in disgrace

Scot Peterson is seen speaking at a February 2015 school board meeting. Peterson was the school resource officer on duty during last week's Florida school shooting. He failed to engage the shooter and has since resigned in disgrace

Peterson, resigned in disgrace on Thursday after the county's sheriff, Scott Israel, tore into him for his conduct during the deadly massacre.

The officer, 54, hid while the shooting was in progress, a fellow officer revealed, as he tried to identify the direction that the shots were coming from so he could call the shooting in.

President of the county's police union Jeff Bell also said that Peterson 'believed he did a good job' during the Parkland, Florida, shooting spree that took 17 lives.

Israel, the county sheriff, and the President of the United States vocally disagreed.

Trump laid into Peterson as he spoke to press for several minutes on Friday morning before departing the White House for a speech to conservative activists at a nearby convention.

In his conference speech, Trump ridiculed Peterson again and renewed his call for 'adept' teachers with prior military service or other training to be granted permits to carry concealed weapons.

'I mean, I don't want to have 100 guards standing with rifles all over the school. You do a conceal carry permit,' Trump said. 'These teachers love their students, and these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns.'

Trump said then that he'd 'rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students' protecting schools 'than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students, and, frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside.'

'And a teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened,' he said. 'I'm telling you that would work.'

The president has joined onto the National Rifle Association's calls to end gun-free zones in schools, saying this week that schools must be 'harder' targets for shooters than they are now.

'I want to stop it. And I know it’s a little controversial to say — but I have to say, since I started this two days ago, a lot of people that were totally opposed to it are now agreeing,' Trump said Friday of his proposal to arm teachers. 'They love their students. They don’t want their students to be killed or to be hurt.'

Trump's idea to allow as many as 40 percent of teachers - a number he has tossed out in addition to 20 percent - to carry guns on their person has stirred controversy.

At a minimum, more than 650,000 teachers would be armed.  And if the federal government were footing the bill, the school safety measure could cost almost a billion dollars.

The president said Thursday that he would be open to having the federal government pay for the program that he envisions providing teachers who get their concealed carry permits bonuses.

The White House is pushing the proposal as one of its top school safety measures as the nation demands action following the shooting spree in Parkland. 

Trump is also calling for stricter background checks that take mental illness assessments into account.

'But I also want to protect — we need a hardened site. It has to be hardened. It can’t be soft. Because they’ll sneak in through a window, they’ll sneak in some way. And, again, you’re standing there totally unprotected,' he said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, told the New York Post that Peterson feels 'distraught' over the shooting that left 17 people dead. 

Still, Peterson believes he acted correctly by calling the shooting in rather rather than chasing down and confronting the assaulter, Bell explained.

'He believed he did a good job calling in the location, setting up the perimeter and calling in the description (of Cruz),' Bell stated. 

Peterson's home in Boynton Beach, Florida is seen above. The officer was lambasted for his conduct first by his boss and then by the president
Peterson's home in Boynton Beach, Florida is seen above. The officer was lambasted for his conduct first by his boss and then by the president

Peterson's home in Boynton Beach, Florida is seen above. The officer was lambasted for his conduct first by his boss and then by the president

Sheriff Scott Israel (pictured at a CNN town hall on February 21) said Peterson should've gone 'in, addressed the killer, and killed'
Sheriff Scott Israel (pictured at a CNN town hall on February 21) said Peterson should've gone 'in, addressed the killer, and killed'

Sheriff Scott Israel (pictured at a CNN town hall on February 21) said Peterson should've gone 'in, addressed the killer, and killed'

While Bell says he doesn't want to second-guess Peterson's decisions, he suggested that his failure to engage with the shooter was a mistake.   

'We have to act, even if that means risking our lives to save many many more lives. I would demand that from our union members,' Bell said. 'You’re listening to an execution every time you hear the rifle shot.'

Peterson was a 33-year veteran of the police force. He had worked as a school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since 2009. His base annual salary would have been $75,673.72, but with longevity and first-responder bonuses, he was probably making closer to $80,000, Bell said. 

His pension will be 75 percent of the average of his top five earning years while on the job, the union chief added.   

Peterson, who was armed with a handgun, didn't follow police procedure and immediately confront Cruz when he started his rampage with an AR-15 assault rifle, according to the Broward County Sheriff's department.

Instead, he took cover at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for upwards of four minutes and 'never went in,' said the sheriff, revealing that Peterson's actions left him 'sick to my stomach,' adding, 'There are no words.'

Israel said the school resource officer should have have 'gone in, addressed the killer and killed the killer.'

The revelations come amid an intensifying debate about how to deal with school shootings, with many including President Trump and the NRA arguing that armed guards and teachers can 'instantly' take down gunmen or dissuade them from coming to the property in the first place.

He 'never went in,' Israel explained, citing security footage, and adding that he was armed and in uniform when bullets started to rain. Pictured are students embracing after the shooting
He 'never went in,' Israel explained, citing security footage, and adding that he was armed and in uniform when bullets started to rain. Pictured are students embracing after the shooting

He 'never went in,' Israel explained, citing security footage, and adding that he was armed and in uniform when bullets started to rain. Pictured are students embracing after the shooting

And in an interview with the New York Times, Coral Springs Officer Burton revealed Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. Pictured are students being treated after the shooting on Valentine's Day
And in an interview with the New York Times, Coral Springs Officer Burton revealed Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. Pictured are students being treated after the shooting on Valentine's Day

And in an interview with the New York Times, Coral Springs Officer Burton revealed Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. Pictured are students being treated after the shooting on Valentine's Day

It took about 30 minutes after the gunfire started for police to track Cruz down. He is pictured above in court on February 19
It took about 30 minutes after the gunfire started for police to track Cruz down. He is pictured above in court on February 19

It took about 30 minutes after the gunfire started for police to track Cruz down. He is pictured above in court on February 19

WHAT ARE SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS?  

Scot Peterson resigned from his position as the School Resource Officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 22 after it was revealed he did nothing to prevent the massacre a week earlier.  

School Resouce Officers (SROs) have been used in the United States since the 1950s as a liaison between local police offices and public schools, and to prevent crime on campus. 

They are defined by the US Justice Department as: sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools. 

The first SRO was put in a school in 1953 in Flint, Michigan, according to the Inter Faculty Organization. 

In the 1970s the officers became more common with the emergence of anti-drug and anti-gang programs, according to WBC News. 

Between 1975 and 2008 the use of SROs in American schools rose by 40 per cent. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Coral Springs Officer Tim Burton revealed that Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. 

Burton said Peterson 'was seeking cover behind a concrete column leading to a stairwell,' because he was worried Cruz could be lurking in the lot. He said Peterson couldn't hear gunshots or screams to lead him to the precise location of the shooting.

Even more shocking was the revelation that Peterson had been told in 2016 about Cruz's Instagram posts about opening fire at a school.

Call logs released by the Sheriff's Office show that on February 6 of that year, a neighbor's son called police and told them Cruz 'planned to shoot up the school on Instagram'.

The deputy who responded determined Cruz had knives and a BB gun and the information was forwarded to Peterson. 

Israel said Peterson resigned when he was told he was being suspended without pay while police conduct an internal investigation, NBC Los Angeles reported. He said the cop informed him that he'd met the requirements for retirement.  

'After seeing video and witness statements, and Peterson's own statement, I decided this morning... to suspend Scot Peterson without pay pending an internal investigation,' Israel said. 

He said the video shows Peterson arrive at Building 12, where most of the killing took place, and take position outside the school.

Apart from getting 'on his radio' to alert police of the situation, Peterson did 'nothing' to prevent 17 innocent people, including 14 children, from being slaughtered, Israel said. Peterson never discharged his gun during the shooting. 

The first photograph of Peterson was tweeted by CBS producer Marty Lebel. 

It came from a February 2015 school board meeting in which Peterson discussed incidents at Atlantic Terminal College in Coconut Creek, where he was given housing from around 2000. 

He told the board: 'I’ve been a police officer for 30 years, and I’ve been a school resource officer for 25 years.'

He described receiving a call alerting him to an alarm in the school's cafeteria.

He said: 'And right there I knew, because I’ve been at that school for many years, I knew right when I heard the cafeteria, you know when you get the hairs on the back of your neck going up, I said, "that never goes off".

'So I ran into my trailer, I grabbed my firearm and my ID and my shorts and my sneakers and I ran over to the cafeteria. As I got to the cafeteria, sure enough, there were four males inside the cafeteria. 

'They saw me peaking through the glass, they obviously fled. I chased them, I’m getting older, but I started chasing them, I identified who I was and as ironic as it may seem, they ran right towards my trailer. So they ran past, jumped over the fence, I jumped into my car, I apprehended two of them… threw them in the back, kept going, grabbed the other two.'

He described another 'chilling' incident when he heard banging on the front door and a facilities lady was there screaming. 

She said there was a man dressed all in black wearing a ski mask and armed with a gun.  

'So I ran, put some shorts on, ran out with my firearm, while I’m running to the school, I'm contacting Coconut Creek Police, we set up a perimeter. Long story short, we caught the individual when he ran across the Coconut Creek Parkway and he was hiding near a bank.'

It was, however just an 18-year-old senior with a paintball gun.  

Peterson, who appears to be large in stature in a video of the meeting, also admitted: 'I’m almost on my way out, I’m 30 years...'      

Call logs released by the Sheriff's Office show that on February 6 of that year, a neighbor's son called police and told them Cruz 'planned to shoot up the school on Instagram'
Call logs released by the Sheriff's Office show that on February 6 of that year, a neighbor's son called police and told them Cruz 'planned to shoot up the school on Instagram'

Call logs released by the Sheriff's Office show that on February 6 of that year, a neighbor's son called police and told them Cruz 'planned to shoot up the school on Instagram'

Peterson told the board: 'I’ve been a police officer for 30 years and I’ve been a school resource officer for 25 years'
Peterson told the board: 'I’ve been a police officer for 30 years and I’ve been a school resource officer for 25 years'

Peterson told the board: 'I’ve been a police officer for 30 years and I’ve been a school resource officer for 25 years'

He had been investigated by his department twice before last week's shooting - once in 2015 when he wrote an email about the Resident On Campus Security Program. This is the same topic he discussed at the school board meeting.

Around the time, officers were fighting to keep their mobile homes on school grounds. 

In it, he questioned the management of Chief Anthony Williams of the Broward District School Police.

He was alleged to have not used common sense and good judgement in authoring the email, according to internal affairs reports in his personnel file. 

It was recommended he be counseled, according to USA Today.

In another incident he was investigated in 1994 for his conduct, but it was unfounded and dropped.

When last week's attack ended, Cruz managed to ditch his semiautomatic AR-15 and slip away on foot. Within about seven minutes from when the gunfire began he was out of the school and in a nearby neighborhood where he was ultimately stopped by an officer from a neighboring police department.

The first officers to enter the school did so roughly 10 minutes after gunfire started, but at that point Cruz had already escaped. 

It took about 30 minutes after the gunfire started for police to track Cruz down. After that, it took an additional 15 minutes for police to identify him.  Many students were still cowering behind locked doors for 45 minutes after the attack started, unsure if the person banging on their classroom doors was the shooter or the police. 

Peterson started working as a resource officer Stoneman Douglas in 2009, according to the Sun-Sentinel. He was responsible for investigating crimes related to stolen property, assault and narcotics offenses.

Peterson is believed to be a divorced father-of-four; it's not clear if he ever remarried. He started working for the sheriff's office in 1985, records show.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's office is reportedly providing protection to Peterson and his family after a request. He now lives in Boynton Beach, and a neighbor, Nelson Sandy, told the Sun Sentinel he saw Peterson leave his home around 3pm Saturday flanked by two officers.

'They were here today, three police officers and they all left together,' he said.  

In 2014, Peterson was presented with the title of School Resource Officer of the Year for the City of Parkland District by the Broward County Crime Commission because he proved 'to be reliable in handling issues with tact and judgment.' He'd been with the school for five years at that point. 

The press release for the award also says Peterson was active in 'mentoring and counseling' the students at Stoneman Douglas.  

Peterson was nominated for Parkland deputy of the year in 2017, according to an internal memo from the sheriff's office. He was called 'a dedicated SRO who values his position and takes pride in protecting the students, faculty and staff at his school.'

In 2013 Peterson was also named Broward County Sheriff Parkland employee of the year. 

Two years later he was featured in a Sun-Sentinel article arguing the importance of SROs on school grounds, fighting for them to keep their jobs and perks when a Florida audit showed they were unnecessary. 

'These colleagues work hard,' he is quoted as saying when told the scheme did not prevent crime. 

'We are crime prevention, an audit report will never show how much we prevent.'  

And in an interview with the New York Times , Coral Springs Officer Tim Burton revealed Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. Burton, who used to be a professional baseball player, said Burton hid behind a concrete pole
And in an interview with the New York Times , Coral Springs Officer Tim Burton revealed Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. Burton, who used to be a professional baseball player, said Burton hid behind a concrete pole
Burton, who used to be a professional baseball player, said Peterson hid behind a concrete column
Burton, who used to be a professional baseball player, said Peterson hid behind a concrete column

And in an interview with the New York Times , Coral Springs Officer Tim Burton revealed Peterson hid from Cruz when the teenager started shooting. Burton, who used to be a professional baseball player, said Peterson hid behind a concrete column

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (pictured Wednesday night) said the school's resource officer Scot Peterson has been suspended without pay as police conduct an internal investigation, reported NBC Los Angeles
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (pictured Wednesday night) said the school's resource officer Scot Peterson has been suspended without pay as police conduct an internal investigation, reported NBC Los Angeles

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (pictured Wednesday night) said the school's resource officer Scot Peterson has been suspended without pay as police conduct an internal investigation, reported NBC Los Angeles

He said Peterson was positioned outside the school, adding that he was armed and in uniform during the shooting. But when he heard the gunfire begin, he 'never went in,' Israel explained, citing security footage. Students are pictured the day after the fatal massacre
He said Peterson was positioned outside the school, adding that he was armed and in uniform during the shooting. But when he heard the gunfire begin, he 'never went in,' Israel explained, citing security footage. Students are pictured the day after the fatal massacre

He said Peterson was positioned outside the school, adding that he was armed and in uniform during the shooting. But when he heard the gunfire begin, he 'never went in,' Israel explained, citing security footage. Students are pictured the day after the fatal massacre

Israel said that instead of just standing there, Peterson should have 'went in, addressed the killer and killed.' Students are pictured with their hands over their heads as they evacuate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the shooting
Israel said that instead of just standing there, Peterson should have 'went in, addressed the killer and killed.' Students are pictured with their hands over their heads as they evacuate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the shooting

Israel said that instead of just standing there, Peterson should have 'went in, addressed the killer and killed.' Students are pictured with their hands over their heads as they evacuate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the shooting

During Thursday's conference Israel also addressed prior calls officers in Broward had received related to the gunman, many of which pointed to his instability and likelihood to carry out the crime he did. 

Since 2008, the agency received 23 calls about Cruz and his brother Zachary. 

He said two officers who previously responded to one of those calls, Edward Eason and Guntis Treijs, have been placed on restrictive duty.

'In two of the cases, after being briefed by internal affairs I've restricted two of our deputies to take statements and make a decision to see whether they should have and could have,' done something to prevent the Parkland tragedy, Israel explained. 

'Our main goal at this point, absent of helping these families heal and keeping our schools safe, is making sure this killer receives the justice he deserves,' Israel said prior to Thursday's press conference.

Israel also announced Wednesday that he has directed a new policy that will see Broward County deputies armed with rifles, including AR-15s, and stationed at schools. He said he does not support arming teachers. 

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder after Thursday's shooting.  

He had previously been reported to police and FBI agents on multiple occasions due to his disturbing behavior at school and on social media, and particularly regarding his affliction with weapons.  

 

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