Deputy who failed to engage Parkland shooter had solid work history

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 8:03 AM

WATCH: Survivors Recount Florida High School Shooting

For years, Scot Peterson loved working as a school resource deputy with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in South Florida.

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He was dependable. He intervened in conflicts as a mediator. He was awarded school resource deputy of the year about four years ago and was recognized at a Parkland City Commission meeting.

He volunteered to help with a lockdown drill at a Catholic school four years ago.

According to documents released to The Palm Beach Post on Friday, his superiors said he was good at his job, even exceeding what he was asked to do.

Until, apparently, he didn’t.

The suburban Boynton Beach resident is said to have stood outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day for minutes while Nikolas Cruz sprayed bullets at the students Peterson was supposed to protect.

President Donald Trump on Friday called the 54-year-old a “coward.” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said his deputy should have gone in. Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie said he wished Peterson had the same courage that the school’s teachers displayed.

>> Parkland school shooting timeline: Seven minutes, three floors and 17 dead

But Douglas English teacher Felicia Burgin, who worked in the freshman building where the shootings took place, has what she concedes isn’t “the most popular opinion.”

“My take is this is misdirected anger,” Burgin told The Palm Beach Post on Friday. “I think that nobody knows unless you’re actually in this situation. … And it just seems to me his choices were to run in there, blindly, and be killed by this AR-15 with his hand gun as a defense, or be called a coward. … From my perspective, there is nothing he could have done to prevent what happened. … My anger is with Nikolas Cruz.”

The decision to stand down marked the end of Peterson’s otherwise nearly stellar three decades with the Sheriff’s Office. Israel publicly disclosed Peterson’s lack of action Thursday and said the deputy was suspended without pay. Peterson then chose to retire instead.

Israel said his department is investigating Peterson’s inaction in the massacre, in which 14 students and three adults died and many were hurt. Authorities said Cruz, 19, has confessed to being the shooter.

Israel said two other deputies, Edward Eason and Guntis Treijs, also are under investigation and have been put on “restrictive duty.” Records indicated Eason lives in Lake Worth and Treijs in Coral Springs. 

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The Broward County Sheriff’s Office had 23 interactions with Cruz or his family from November 2008 to November 2017, records showed. And some of them happened while Peterson was the Douglas High resource officer.

On Feb. 5, 2016, a deputy relayed information to the resource officer that a neighbor’s son claimed Cruz said on Instagram he planned to shoot up the school. A sheriff’s deputy said Thursday they have no record of what happened to that information which was given to the resource officer.

And on Sept. 28, 2016, a peer counselor reported to the school resource officer that Cruz possibly ingested gasoline in an attempt to commit suicide and was cutting himself. The mental health counselor said Cruz didn’t meet the criteria for a Baker Act, according to records. The Baker Act allows the state to have someone in custody for up to three days.

Calls made to Peterson and other relatives weren’t returned. A call to the home of his first wife and four children was answered by a man who hung up.

No one answered the door Thursday or Friday at his house. Around the time that Israel made the announcement Thursday, reporters flooded Peterson’s neighborhood and his family called the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for assistance, spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.

A deputy outside Peterson’s home Friday said Peterson left town but didn’t elaborate.

>> Armed resource officer never ‘went in’ during Parkland shooting

Neighbors said Peterson moved in about a year ago and has been updating his home.

Nelson Sandy pointed to his front door.

“He’s right over there,” he said. Then he pointed to his newspaper. “And he’s right here.”

The neighbors differed on what Peterson should have done Feb. 14.

Sandy said he should have kept his job because he isn’t responsible for the shooting.

Another neighbor, who wouldn’t give his name but said he was an 83-year-old Army veteran who has volunteered for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office called Peterson’s inaction “terrible.

“He’s supposed to be a first responder,” the neighbor said.

The neighbor said he saw Peterson fixing screens at his home about a week and a half ago and asked if he had a day off. He said Peterson told him he had many sick days left.

Joe Sansone said Peterson is “involved in a terrible situation. He’s got parents (of students) that are angry at the world and he’s part of the world so they’re angry at him. But people are hurting and they got to strike back at somebody. I feel badly for him. I feel badly of course for the parents as well.”

Peterson received high marks in his work evaluations for years, achieving “meets expectations” and more often “exceeds expectations.”

“Deputy Peterson is trusted as the School Resource Officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. He values his position and takes pride in protecting the students, faculty and staff at his school,” one of his bosses wrote in his 2016-2017 evaluation.

He started at Stoneman Douglas around 2010 and before that held the same position at the McFatter Technical Institute in Davie. He attended Miami-Dade Community College and Florida International University.

Peterson did get into trouble once, however.

In 2015 he identified himself as a Broward County Sheriff’s Office employee in an email questioning the management of Chief Anthony Williams of the Broward District School Police. He was a Resident on Campus Security Program officer at Atlantic Technical College at the time and Williams recommended the ROCS be dissolved, according to records.

Peterson said Williams failed to supervise the program, but “we still everyday protect our kids and school campuses.”

The final recommendation at the conclusion of the internal affairs investigation was counsel.

Teachers and staff returned to Stoneman Douglas on Friday and some conversations focused on Peterson and how they thought if he went inside, the end result might have been different.

>> Shooting survivor to Trump: ‘I don’t want your condolences’

Douglas math teacher Jim Gard said he was “disgusted.”

“Instead of having 17 dead maybe there would be four dead and that sounds terrible to the people, especially the parents and family, but this never, ever, ever should have happened,” Gard said. “There is absolutely no excuse for an officer who is trained to not go in.”

Israel said Peterson, believed to be the only resource officer at the large Parkland school, arrived at the building 60 to 90 seconds into the shooting, which lasted just six minutes.

“What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and he never went in,” Israel said, adding Peterson is believed to have remained outside for upwards of four minutes. He said the surveillance video of Peterson is part of the investigation and might never be released.

“My expectation is the officers can handle any kind of situation they come upon,” Palm Beach County Schools Police Chief Lawrence Leon said Friday. “We train in ‘active shooter’ probably more than anybody, I would say. After Columbine, we started training that way; an ‘active shooter’ (situation) was to engage.”

He said while police always must make split-second decisions, “you do training so that becomes muscle memory.”

But he also said many of his officers told him they were “distraught” over the deputy’s inaction in Parkland.

“They felt, ‘How could (he) not respond when it’s kids.’”

Sara Ojalvo, Douglas High special needs assistant, said she found Peterson to be “charismatic” and was surprised to learn he had not taken action.

“You never know how you are going to react to a situation,” Ojalvo said. “Nobody knows what was on his mind. Why he didn’t go inside. We don’t know. That’s something so new. It’s almost too new to process. Because this is a person that was so charismatic.”

Others who spoke at Douglas High on Friday felt Peterson must share a larger burden of blame.

“How could he do it?” Broward teachers representative Anna Fusco said of Peterson. “Just as a person and a human being, I hope that (authorities) are taking the measures to figure out and find out why and how so they can help everyone else that’s put in that position that’s there to protect. To make sure it doesn’t happen again. The only one that can explain why he didn’t walk in is him.”

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2-year-old trapped under rock pile survived, thanks to cop with background as stone mason

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 11:57 PM



Pixabay
(Pixabay)

A two-year old trapped under a massive pile of rocks in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was released from the hospital Saturday, thanks to a police officer with a unique talent.

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It turned out the responding Portsmouth officer, T.J. Potter, had previous experience as a professional stone mason and specialized in historical foundation repair.

Potter's experience helped him accurately assess the danger the child was in and properly remove the slabs from on top of the child.

"[It was] a five man stone or a five man block which indicated that you would need four to five people to life it and set it on a wall, and we have done stones like that and built with stones like that, so I knew we could lift it by hand," Potter said.

"I think that was the main concern – can we lift it off the boy?"

Authorities responded to 325 Little Harbor Road after a distress call about a 2-year-old trapped under a pile of rocks. 

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When officers arrived, they found the boy pinned between large slabs of stone.

The boy had been playing on top one of the stone slabs with his grandfather when the slab he was standing on dislodged. The child fell forward and was trapped by the slab, which came to rest on his head.

The stone slabs are being used to build a foundation for a seawall and each slab is estimated to weigh several hundred pounds.

The situation was highly delicate, police said, because one of the stone slabs was resting on the child's head, and could have given way at any moment, putting the child at risk of sustaining the full weight of the stone on his head.

After a coordinated effort by police and firefighters, rescuers freed the boy in about nine minutes.

The child's parents were able to keep him calm as first responders worked their way around the stone slabs and rescued him.

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The child was first given emergency medical treatment at the scene then transported to the Portsmouth Regional Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

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17-year-old twin sister shot, killed in road rage incident, police arrest suspect

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 11:04 PM

After a two-day search, police in metro Atlanta made an arrest in a possible road rage incident that left a 17-year-old girl dead.
Pixabay
After a two-day search, police in metro Atlanta made an arrest in a possible road rage incident that left a 17-year-old girl dead.(Pixabay)

Metro Atlanta police have made an arrest in the shooting death of a teenage girl in a possible road rage incident Wednesday at a busy intersection in Dacatur.

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Janae Owens, 17, was in a car with her mother at a red light Wednesday evening when police said a man in a black car opened fire, killing Owens and injuring her mother.

Decatur police arrested a man identified as Simmie Rishcard Reed late Friday night after an anonymous tip. Reed has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of aggravated assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

>> Related: Police: Road rage escalates to gunfire, kills 1 teen, injures another in Decatur

Owens’ family recently moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to metro Atlanta for a better life, WSB-TV reported.

Investigators told the news station the gunfire was aimed at Owens’ mother, who was driving the car.

The woman’s injuries are not considered life-threatening. Owens’ twin sister was sitting in the back seat and was not injured in the shooting, according to WSB.

Police think road rage may have fueled the gunfire, but Sgt. John Bender told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the motive is still unknown.

Police said although Reed is behind bars, it is still an ongoing investigation.
>> Related: 17-year-old twin sister shot, killed in road rage incident, family distraught as police search for killer

Reed is scheduled to make a first court appearance Monday afternoon.

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New Carlisle Purple Heart City celebration

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 5:47 PM

Purple hear t event

A celebration took place earlier today at the New Carlisle Fire Station to celebrate the city being designated a Purple Heart City. The city will post signs at the entrances to the city designating that it’s a Purple Heart City.

The city of New Carlisle was named a Purple Heart City by the Military Order of the Purple Heart in 2014, according to Mayor Ethan Reynolds. The honor means the city has many veterans who served in the armed forces.

REALTED: Bellbrook designated a Purple Heart City

“Our city is very close to the base and many young men and women go in and serve the military,” said Reynolds. “Unfortunately, some have been wounded and this is a way for us to honor them and show them respect.” 

The idea for the event came after a citizen, David Bauer--a Vietnam veteran and a Purple Heart recipient--came to him and asked about why the city didn’t celebrate being named a Purple Heart City when it happened.

RELATED: Middletown designated a Purple Heart City

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the Armed Forces wounded in combat with an enemy force, or posthumously to the next of kin of members of the Armed Forces killed in combat. 

Making sure people know that New Carlisle is a Purple Heart City should be a priority, said Bauer. “This is for our veterans.”

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Bicyclist killed in Middletown accident identified

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 3:54 PM
Updated: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 10:08 PM

Middletown ped strike

A bicyclist is dead after being struck by a vehicle Saturday afternoon near Middletown’s Sunset Park.

Paul G. Klein, 66, of Middletown was killed after he failed to stop at a stop sign around 2:20 p.m. as he was traveling east on Fisher Avenue and was struck by a 2017 Jeep Cherokee, according to police.

Klein was struck by the Maroon colored Jeep Cherokee driven by Sharma Finley, 66, of Middletown, who was traveling southbound on Sunset Street approaching the intersection with Fisher Avenue, police said.

Middletown Police and EMS arrived on scene and pronounced Klein dead. Ohio State Highway Patrol Troopers arrived on scene for the crash investigation.

Finley was not injured in the crash.

Klein was wearing protective equipment at the time of the crash. Alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be factors in the crash.

The crash remains under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

"It's really a shame cause you wouldn't expect something out here. It's a nice residential area," said Middletown resident Jeremy Reins--who lives up the hill from where the accident happened. "It's sad to hear. It's just people need to try and share this road a bit more, we need to look out for each other if we're driving."

A 66-year-old, male bicyclist is dead after being struck by a vehicle near Middletown’s Sunset Park, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.(Staff Writer)

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