Parkland Shooting: Scot Peterson, School Resource Officer Who Didn't Confront Nikolas Cruz, Says 'I'm Not a Coward'

Nearly four months after a shooter entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus and fatally shot 14 students and three teachers, the armed school safety officer roundly criticized for staying outside during the massacre has broken his silence.

Scot Peterson, who resigned in disgrace after three decades in law enforcement, opened up about why he stayed away from alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz on the morning of February 14 in a Tuesday interview with NBC's Today.

"The families need to know. I didn't get it right," Peterson told host Savannah Guthrie. "But it wasn't because of some, 'Oh, I don't want to go into that building. I don't want to confront someone in there.' It wasn't like that at all."

Peterson, who is facing a lawsuit from a family member of one of the student victims, went on to say that he didn't believe there was a shooting happening inside the campus, despite multiple students and teachers telling news outlets that gunshots created a deafening noise.

"When I heard those shots outside, I didn't even think that someone was inside the building,'' he said. "I never even thought that. I thought, 'There's shooting outside here. I don't know where it is.'''

He continued, "It haunts me that I didn't know at that moment, you know. Those are my kids in there," he said. "I never would have sat there and let my kids get slaughtered."

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, local and national leaders weighed in on Peterson's behavior. President Donald Trump said the resource officer "didn't have the courage" and was a "coward." Meanwhile, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel held a press conference and condemned Peterson's decision to stay outside, calling the situation "sickening."

"What I saw was a deputy arrive … take up a position and he never went in," the sheriff said at a news conference on February 22. "...He should have gone in and killed the killer."

But the 54-year-old said those characterizations aren't correct. The shooting—which spanned less than 10 minutes—happened too quickly, and he was stationed outside because he believed a sniper might be firing bullets.

"I never even thought for a moment of being scared or a coward because I was just doing things the whole time," Peterson said.

Cruz, who walked off the campus by blending into a sea of terrified students, was arrested hours later.

"I'll never be able to get over this," Peterson said. "Those were my kids."

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People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14 in Parkland, Florida. An officer who failed to confront the gunman is now speaking out. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Parkland Shooting: Scot Peterson, School Resource Officer Who Didn't Confront Nikolas Cruz, Says 'I'm Not a Coward' | U.S.