It’s the most devastating, gut-punching statement you can imagine hearing. And if you were a parent of any of the slain at Stoneman Douglas High School it has to be infuriating.
On the recently released dispatch recordings from that horrific February 14th afternoon in Parkland, Florida, Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson – the man who had the ability, training, and firepower to neutralize the rampaging killer and save the lives of children he was being paid to protect – specifically says to other approaching officers, clearly and audibly:
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away.”
Dispatch dutifully repeated the instruction. “Do not approach.” “Stay away.” Kids were dying inside, and the policeman employed by the school to serve and protect those very kids was not approaching and was staying away.
For weeks now, Peterson’s defense has been that he thought the shooting was happening outside the building, not inside. And there were other officers who reported the potential of gunfire out by the football field. But Peterson’s highly improbable excuse (he was an officer trained to identify and locate the origin of gunfire, and he was standing directly outside the building where fleeing students were escaping after all) was also demolished by the release of these dispatch recordings.
Approximately 90 seconds after the gunman opened fire, Deputy Peterson was at the edge of that bloody 1200 building and radioed dispatch:
“Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired —1200 building.”
Despite acknowledging shots fired in the 1200 building he was standing directly beside, he didn’t enter.
When another officer, racing to the scene and obviously hearing echoes radioed that he thought there could have been gunfire out by the football field, Peterson corrects:
“All right... We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200.”
He knew it was inside the building. He didn’t go in.
Police officers and first responders who sign up to run into gunfire, burning buildings, and imminent danger to save others are, and ought to be, rightfully lauded and praised for their selfless devotion to their fellow man. Those who agree to do it, and then fail, cannot be afforded absolution.
At least seventeen lives deserve better.