SUNRISE, Fla. — Controversial former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson refused to answer a subpoena to testify Thursday before the state commission investigating the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
- Despite being subpoenaed, Scot Peterson no-show at meeting
- Peterson's attorney has filed a suit against the commission
- Parents of student victims attended the meeting
- RELATED STORY: Maligned school deputy defends response during deadly Parkland shooting
The public safety commission has legal subpoena power in their quest to investigate the faults and missed red flags that allowed Nikolas Cruz to roam the halls of the high school as he carried out an attack that left 14 students and three staff members dead.
There was much anticipation Thursday as the commission met, with parents of some of the student victims sitting front row.
On the agenda was planned testimony from now former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, as well as Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, and Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Muncie.
An attorney for Peterson told the commission that he would not answer questions and in turn has filed a lawsuit against the commission for trying to force the disgraced deputy to testify.
Peterson has been criticized for not engaging Cruz during the attack, instead remaining outside and then telling investigators that he thought the attack was happening outside of the building.
The Commission appeared blindsided by Peterson’s absence.
“We subpoenaed him, and he said he’s going to be here,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Chairman of the MSDPS Commission said.
Gualtieri’s most pressing question for Peterson: “Why the hell did he go hide and run away and not do his job and go into the building?”
Some of the parents of students killed in the attack were not pleased either that Peterson did not show up.
Parents in attendance include Frank Guttenberg (father of Jaime Guttenberg), Lori Alhadeff (mother of Alyssa Alhadeff), and Andrew Pollack (father of Meadow Pollack). Two parents sit on the commission, including Ryan Petty (father of Alaina Petty) and Max Schachter (father of Alexander Schachter).
Commission Hears Testimony
Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie was grilled by the commission on the district’s response then and now to the massacre.
“To the families, I want to offer my condolences and say that I am so, so sorry that you sent your kids to school on that day, like any other parent would expect them to return home, and somehow we failed to live up to that promise to you,” Runcie said.
Communication is also emerging as a fatal crack in law enforcement’s response to the attack.
In past meetings, Commissioners learned of first responders’ inability to communicate with one another because their radio systems were incompatible.
Highlighted Thursday in a series of videos and animations was also the delay in information. A presentation to the board showed how deputies were relying on information from what they believed at the time was real time video from the surveillance camera system inside the school.
Deputies were tracking the gunman roaming the halls, only to later learn the video system they were watching was on a 20-30 minute delay. At that point the gunman had long walked off from the school campus.
“It’s been strongly made that if it isn’t the number one issue, it’s certainly at the top of the issues,” Sheriff Guiltieri said, saying the overall communication challenges in responding to the school shooting was “a mess."
Runcie told the board the district has invested millions of dollars in expanding security measures and policies. That includes hiring a new chief of school security and emergency management. The individual will oversee consolidated security and safety functions.
Runice added that disciplinary action is likely to be taken against various school personnel based upon the commission’s findings.
The Florida law that established the legal operation of the commission also requires the board provides a preliminary report to state leaders by January 1, 2019.