Lawyer defends deputy who didn’t stop shooter

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Lawyer defends deputy who didn’t stop shooter
Lawyer defends deputy who didn’t stop shooter

PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) – The very first responder to a Florida high school shooting that killed 17 people said Monday he never entered the building to confront the suspect because he believed the gunfire was coming from outside.

Scot Peterson, the armed deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been called a coward and worse for failing to stop the shooting.

In his first public statement about the shootings, Peterson said it’s “patently untrue” that he failed to meet department standards or acted with cowardice as the first armed responder on the scene of the Valentine’s Day massacre.

Faced with possible termination after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he felt “sick to my stomach” over his deputy’s failure to intervene, Peterson resigned and indicated his immediate retirement.

“Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the seventeen victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” his attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, said in the statement.

The lawyer said Israel’s account of Peterson’s actions that day were a “gross oversimplification” of the events.

Politicians and other officials have been withering in their criticism. President Donald Trump blamed not only Peterson but other officers who didn’t stop the attack, saying Monday that they “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.” Speaking to a group of governors at the White House, Trump said “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.”

Peterson’s statement said he and a security specialist ran to the scene at first word of the shooting, a report that mistakenly said firecrackers were being set off near the 1200 building. He then heard gunshots, “but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings.”

Following his training to seek cover and assess the situation in the event of outdoor gunfire, he “took up a tactical position” between two nearby buildings while alerting dispatch that he heard gunfire, and initiating a “Code Red” lockdown of the campus.

“Radio transmissions indicated that there was a gunshot victim in the area of the football field,” adding to his belief that the shooting was outside.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office has asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen to investigate the law enforcement response, and the agency confirmed it would begin the probe immediately.

Meanwhile, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, now a Democratic candidate for governor, led a rally of more than 1,000 people in heavy rain on the Capitol steps in Tallahassee, calling for a ban on assault rifles and criticized the National Rifle Association for advocating to arm teachers.

“We know that is dumb, dumb, dumb!” Levin said to cheers and applause.

Bused in from around the state, protesters wore orange T-shirts saying #GunReformNow. One held a sign with an image from the movie “The Sixth Sense,” with the words “I SEE DEAD PEOPLE … THANKS TO THE GOP AND NRA.” Another said “Hey Lawmakers! Take the Pledge. No NRA Money.”

One tearful student who has undergone three surgeries on her wounds and still has bullet fragments inside her also spoke publicly for the first time, thanking the doctors and first responders for helping her make what she says will be a full recovery. Maddy Wilford, 17, said at a hospital news conference that “it’s times like these when I know that we need to stick together.”

Rescuers thought Wilford was dead when they first encountered her inside the school. She was pale and unresponsive, bleeding heavily from bullet wounds to her chest, abdomen and arm. A fire-rescue lieutenant was under orders to take her to a hospital 30 miles away, but made what doctors called a life-saving split-second decision to bring her instead to a hospital less than 10 miles away that had practiced an active shooter drill months earlier.

“She’s very lucky, very, very lucky” said Igor Nichiporenko, M.D., the medical director of trauma services at Broward Health North, adding that the large caliber bullets “penetrated through her chest and abdomen.”

Flanked by her mother and father, Wilford said that with “all the love that’s been passed around, I definitely wouldn’t be here without it.”

On Sunday, thousands of students, many with their parents, entered the campus for the first time since the shooting, gathering their backpacks and other things abandoned as they fled. The three-story 1200 building Nikolas Cruz allegedly fired his AR-15 assault weapon before melting into the crowds of fleeing students is now cordoned off by a chain link fence, covered with banners from other schools showing their solidarity.

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Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida; Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; contributed to this report.

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An earlier version of this report had an incorrect spelling of deputy Scot Peterson’s name.

A man signs a banner as people pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. Thousands of students joined their parents in walking past the three-story building at the Florida high school where the Feb. 14 shooting took place. It is now cordoned off by a chain link fence that was covered with banners from other schools showing their support. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
People dressed in white costumes as angels stand by a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. Thousands of students joined their parents in walking past the three-story building at the Florida high school where the Feb. 14 shooting took place. It is now cordoned off by a chain link fence that was covered with banners from other schools showing their support. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Pulse survivor India Godman, left, hugs Wendy Garrity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, for an open house as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since a shooting took place at the high school on Feb. 14. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Parents and students walk by the memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, for an open house as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since seventeen victims were killed in a mass shooting at the school in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Parents and students walk into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, for an open house as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since seventeen victims were killed in a mass shooting at the school in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Seventeen people dressed as angels stand Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, at the memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., for those killed in a shooting on Feb. 14. Organizer Terry Decarlo said the idea originated after the death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and murdered in 1998. Decarlo said the costumes now travel to disasters and mass shootings around the country. “We want to the survivors to know angels are looking over them and protecting them,” Decarlo said. (AP Photo/Terry Spencer)
People participate in a paddle out memorial on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Deerfield Beach, Fla., which was hosted by Island Water Sports of Deerfield Beach to honor the victims of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. (Rolando Otero/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Parents and students arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for an open house on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Parkland, Fla., as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since over a dozen were killed on Feb. 14. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Mourners pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Tyra Hemans, center, reaches out to a classmate during a paddle out memorial on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Deerfield Beach, Fla., which was hosted by Island Water Sports of Deerfield Beach to honor the victims of the deadly school shooting in Parkland on Feb. 14. (Rolando Otero/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Mourners pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Mourners bring flowers as they pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Mourners bring flowers as they pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
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