Lori Alhadeff, the mother of shooting victim Alyssa watches videos from the school shooting during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission meets Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Sunrise, Fla. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Criticized deputy refuses to testify about school massacre

November 15, 2018 - 2:14 pm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The then-sheriff's deputy who was on campus during the Florida high school massacre but didn't confront the shooter declined to testify Thursday before a state commission investigating it.

Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson failed to appear before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, where he would have been asked why he did not enter the building where 14 students and three staff members died Feb. 14 and try to stop the shooter.

Instead, his attorney Joseph DiRuzzo appeared instead and told the 14-member panel and the packed crowd he had filed a lawsuit earlier Thursday to quash the panel's subpoena.

One victim's father said to DiRuzzo as he left, "He didn't do his job. My daughter should be alive."

There had been speculation Peterson might invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify as a criminal investigation of law enforcement's response continues.

Some of the heaviest criticism Peterson received Wednesday as commissioners watched a presentation on his actions came from the panel's law enforcement officials. The commission believes Peterson could have prevented at least six deaths if he entered the building immediately, but he took cover, drew his gun and never went inside.

"He was a cop in name only," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "If he had been a real cop, he would have run in there with that gun."

"He ran. He did not want to go in," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission's chairman. The panel also includes educators, mental health professionals, a legislator and the fathers of two slain students.

Peterson told investigators he heard only two or three shots and didn't know whether they were coming from inside or outside the three-story freshman building. That is contradicted by radio calls in which he correctly identifies the building as the shooter's location. Bullets also came out a window almost directly above where he took cover. About 150 shots were fired.

Peterson, 55, retired shortly after the shooting rather than accept a suspension while an internal investigation was conducted.

Former student Nikolas Cruz, 20, is charged with the slayings. He faces a possible death sentence.

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