Internal radio-dispatch recordings released Thursday contradict the narrative advanced by the Broward County sheriff’s deputy who sheltered in place rather than trying to stop the massacre occurring inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In the face of widespread criticism, Deputy Scot Peterson publicly insisted that he believed the mass shooting, which claimed 17 lives on February 14, was taking place outside on the athletic fields surrounding the school.
Despite his public insistence to the contrary, the newly released recordings reveal that Peterson knew exactly where the shooting was taking place and instructed his fellow deputies to stay away from the building.
“Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired — 1200 building,” Peterson radioed at 2:23 p.m., just four minutes after shooter Nikolas Cruz opened fire.
Peterson then made his way to the Southeast corner of the 1200 building, where the attack was taking place, and remained there until the shooting was over.
“We’re talking about the 1200 building, it’s going to be the building off Holmberg Road,” Peterson said seconds after arriving outside the building. “Get the school locked down, gentlemen.”
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away,” Peterson later said over the radio.
On the recordings, Peterson never claims the shots are coming from the athletic fields, as he insisted he had in his public statement, and he even corrects another officer who suggests as much.
“All right….We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200,” Peterson said in response to the suggestion that shots were coming from outside.
The first officers to enter the school did so at 2:32 p.m., five minutes after Cruz ditched his AR-15 in a stairwell and fled the school.
Broward County sheriff Scott Israel deflected responsibility for the failings of the department’s response to the shooting during an interview conducted weeks afterward.
“Leaders are responsible for the agency, but leaders are not responsible for a person,” Israel told the local NBC affiliate. “I gave [Peterson] a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training. If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility.”
The sheriff’s department’s response is currently under review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Jeff Bell, president of the Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, questioned Peterson’s motivation in instructing other deputies to remain outside the building.
“It certainly backs up that he never went into the school,” Bell said of Peterson. “At one point he says to keep back 500 feet. Why would he say that?”
Official policy dictates that officers engage active shooters.
The sheriff’s office released the audio recordings and timeline amid growing national scrutiny and calls for transparency.
The Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and CNN sued the department last month to compel the release of school-surveillance video. The publications’ lawyers argued that the footage is a matter of public interest in court Thursday.
In a tweet later on Thursday, the Sheriff’s office seemed to concede that the footage should be released.
“BSO agreed in court today with the media that surveillance video from outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High should be released publicly. Legal exemptions block the release unless a judge approves. The judge took it under advisement and we hope for a ruling shortly,” the tweet read.