A video from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the afternoon of the Valentine’s Day massacre shows former school resource officer Scot Peterson responding to the shots fired, but it doesn’t provide much in the way of detail.
Media organizations, including CNN, sued the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to obtain surveillance footage at the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were shot and killed by a former student in hopes of providing answers about the police response.
But the edited 27-minute video that was released Thursday illuminates little.
It begins with Peterson, wearing his deputy’s uniform, standing between two buildings on campus talking to another adult, then appearing to speak into a radio handset on his shoulder. He walks off screen, and the video changes to a long angle of a golf cart driving away. Another angle shows the golf cart moving down a corridor before the shot switches again.
The final shot, which lasts about 26 minutes, shows what police say is Peterson positioned outside a building. Students, whose images are pixelated, walk into the frame and then out of it.
At various times over the next 26 minutes, people – ostensibly police, as they are not pixelated the way the children are – can be seen at the far corner of the building, behind a pillar in a corridor to the right of the frame and standing near the corridor from which the golf cart emerged.
About 22 minutes into the video, police lights can be seen at the far corner of the building.
In the final seconds of the video, three figures who appear to be in uniform run from the golf cart corridor and off the left side of the screen.
In a statement, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said it welcomed a Florida judge’s decision to release the footage but said it was prohibited from discussing any details until the investigation had concluded.
Authorities previously said the footage showed that Peterson never went inside the building where the gunman was shooting at students and school staff.
Peterson was armed but stayed outside the building, authorities said. The Broward Sheriff’s Office active shooter policy calls for deputies to interrupt a shooting and search for victims when there’s a ceasefire.
“The video speaks for itself,” the statement said. “(Peterson’s) actions were enough to warrant an internal affairs investigation, as requested by Sheriff Scott Israel on Feb. 21. After being suspended without pay, Peterson chose to resign and immediately retired rather than face possible termination.”
While he was outside the building, Peterson got on his radio and took a position where he could see the western entry, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.
In a statement via his attorney after the shooting, Peterson had said he wasn’t sure where the shots were coming from. But in dispatch audio released recently, the school resource officer can be heard telling a dispatcher, “I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired, 1200 building.”
Immediately after the shooting, responding officers scrambled to the scene but appeared to be following commands from Peterson to close the road in front of the school and set up a perimeter.
They also were operating on delayed information. Security footage from the school had somehow been rewound, and police were watching it on a 20-minute delay – leading them to believe the gunman was still in the building, when he was long gone.
But that mishap “never put us in a situation where any kids’ lives were in danger, any teachers’ lives were in danger,” said Coral Springs police Chief Tony Pustizzi, whose officers responded to the scene.
Some 911 calls and police radio traffic audiotapes have gradually been made public.
In the past week, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Coral Springs police released calls illustrating the fear and panic of students and parents on February 14.
Desperate parents can be heard relaying information to 911 dispatchers after exchanging text messages or speaking with their children inside the school.
And first responders could be heard trying unsuccessfully to communicate among themselves due to equipment failures and other issues.