The Florida school cop branded a coward for failing to tackle mass shooter Nikolas Cruz is seen for the first time – enjoying his taxpayer-funded retirement.
Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, 54, chose to resign and retire rather than face an internal affairs investigation for ‘seeking cover’ while AR-15 wielding Cruz slaughtered kids inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
That means the 33-year law enforcement veteran will keep his $60,000 pension unless he’s hit with a federal charge of failing to act, which legal experts say will be hard to prove.
Peterson appeared happy and relaxed Saturday as he headed to a strip mall, wearing a baseball cap, pink t-shirt, shorts and a fanny pack, to take a female companion to lunch.
It was the first time the father-of-four had been seen since he fled his home in Boynton Beach, Florida, under a police guard in the wake of the Valentine’s Day massacre, which claimed the lives of 14 kids and three staff members.
Disgraced: Retired Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, 54, was spotted at a Boynton Beach strip mall with a female companion on Saturday
Enjoying his tax-funded retirement: Peterson appeared happy and relaxed Saturday as he headed to a strip mall, wearing a baseball cap, pink t-shirt, shorts and a fanny pack
This is the first time Peterson has been seen in publicly after he fled his home in Boynton Beach, Florida, under a police guard in the wake of the Parkland shooting
The cowardly cop, who worked as student resource officer (SRO) at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since 2009, will keep his $60,000 pension unless he is hit with a federal charge
‘He was very courteous, he held the door open for his female companion, they visited a few stores before having lunch,’ dished an onlooker.
‘But if he was trying to keep a low profile he didn’t do a good job if it – at one stage he couldn’t locate his car and spent five minutes wandering around the lot in circles.’
Peterson was placed on restricted assignment after security camera footage showed him lingering outside the freshman building for four minutes while Cruz, 19, roamed the corridors firing at students.
Peterson was awarded the 2013 Broward County Sheriff Parkland employee of the year. Above he is pictured with high school Principal Thompson
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters that Peterson should have ‘went in, address the killer, kill the killer,’ saying the apparent inaction left him ‘Devastated. Sick to my stomach. There are no words.’
Peterson was branded a coward by President Trump and slammed by surviving students however he responded through an attorney to say he believed the shooter was outside the school in Parkland, Florida.
‘Broward Sheriff’s Office trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek cover and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes with other law enforcement,’ his lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo, said in a statement.
Israel’s department has so far refused to release the video to let the public judge Peterson’s actions for themselves.
However internal radio dispatches appear to confirm Peterson did pinpoint the gunman’s location but was warning cops from engaging, saying: ‘Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away.’
This may explain why officers from the Coral Springs Police Department allegedly arrived at the school to find three more Broward County deputies waiting outside the building.
Nobody headed inside until 11 minutes after the first shots rang out, by which time Cruz had ditched his weapon and fled.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is reviewing the police response.
Shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, was said to be on the first floor of the high school while Peterson remained outdoors. Cruz claimed the lives of 14 students and three faculty members
Cruz has his own cell at the Broward County Jail (above). Guards there have described him as ‘well-groomed’ and ‘responsive’
‘Everything that his lawyer alleged, that he didn’t know where the shooter was, is the direct opposite to what’s on the radio transmissions,’ Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, told DailyMailTV.
‘Now it’s known that when he got there the shooter was on the first floor. So had he intervened those people on the second and third floor could possible still be alive today. How do you justify that?’
Peterson studied criminal justice at Florida International University and worked several security jobs before joining the Broward’s Sheriff’s Office in 1985.
He worked as a traffic cop before being transferred to the school resource officer program in 1991.
He had been student resource officer (SRO) at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since 2009 and was the 2013 Broward County Sheriff Parkland employee of the year.
By 2016 he was earning $83,028 annually in wages topped up by as much as $18,638 in overtime, according to documents obtained by DailyMailTV.
Father-of-four Peterson joined the force in 1985. He worked as a traffic cop before being transferred to the school resource officer program in 1991
Documents obtained by DailyMailTV reveal Peterson was making $83,000 annually in 2016
His step daughter revealed Peterson broke up fights, busted kids for selling Adderall and saw off trespassers at the high school, but she didn’t know of any occasion when he was forced to fire his service weapon
Deputies typically received a pension of about 75 percent of their average annual wage for their five most lucrative years. Peterson would therefore claim a pension of around $62,000.
He will, however, have to share a slice of it with his two ex-wives, with a court ordering last year the he owed his first wife Rosemarie Peterson, the 55-year-old mother of his four children, $24,834 in unpaid alimony.
His second wife, Ivelesse Ochoa, a 46-year-old administrative support specialist at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, will also be due a share.
Neither they, nor his four children – Matthew, 21, and Patrick, 19, both US servicemen, and daughters Alexandra, 24, and Kaitlyn, 22 – have commented publicly.
However sources close to the four, say they are stunned by his apparent activity. His sister Sonya Thomas, 57, also declined the opportunity to defend him.
In an exclusive interview, however, Peterson’s stepdaughter Sarah De Luca, 23, previously told DailyMail.com: ‘Both of their guns shoot bullets, he didn’t have a water gun.
Internal radio dispatches appear to confirm Peterson did pinpoint the gunman’s location but warned cops from engaging. Above students from Stoneman Douglas High School are seen evacuating the building
Peterson was branded a coward by President Trump and slammed by surviving students for his alleged failure to act
‘He’s a giant, he’s 6ft 4in. I feel like the shooter would have been scared of Scot in his uniform running towards him. I do feel Scot is a coward.’
De Luca said Peterson would break up fights, bust kids for selling Adderall and see off trespassers. She didn’t know of any occasion when he was forced to fire his service weapon.
‘My mom said he kept a rifle in the back of his car and a bulletproof vest. He always bragged that he was a really good shooter whenever he had to qualify,’ added De Luca, who is Ochoa’s daughter.
‘You have to think that people working in schools should be ready for this sort of thing in today’s world.
‘If he was too soft to do something he shouldn’t have signed up to be a cop. I’d be pretty upset if I was a parent.’
Cruz, arrested hours after the shooting, has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
PICTURED: Fourteen students, geography teacher, coach and athletic director shot dead in Florida high school massacre
Jaime Guttenberg, 14, (left) was described by relatives as a ‘kind-hearted, sweet’ girl. She attended the school with her younger brother who survived and rushed home afterwards. Senior Nicholas Dworet (right) was a gifted swimmer who had his sights set on 2020 Tokyo Olympics success. His devastated college student girlfriend is among those grieving his death. Friends said he was not just a talented athlete, but a ‘good guy’ who will be missed
Martin Duque, 14, (left) was missing for hours on Wednesday and his frantic family desperately appealed for him to get in touch on social media. On Thursday, his older brother Miguel confirmed his death. Martin was a freshman. Meadow Pollack, 18, (right) was preparing for college. Her father was at the school on Wednesday and showed her photograph around in the hope that she would be found alive
Cara Loughran (left) was missing on Wednesday afternoon. Her mother Denise and her father rushed to the designated hotel where parents were told to go to be reunited with their children in the hope that she would be found alive. Her grieving neighbor confirmed her death on Thursday. Alyssa Alhadeff, 15, (right) was eulogized by her mother who said she was a talented soccer player and creative mind. ‘All she had to offer the world was love… I just sent her to school and she was shot and killed,’ she said
Luke Hoyer, 15, (left) was described as a ‘precious’ child by his grandparents who confirmed his death. They found out about the shooting on television. They said he was a ‘good kid’ who ‘never got in trouble’. Joaquin Oliver, 17, (right) was also killed. Joaquin was a Venezuelan immigrant who came to the US with his family for a ‘better future’, they said on Thursday
Gina Montalto, 15, (left) was described as a ‘light and joy’. She and Jaime, another victim, volunteered at a local project called The Friendship Initiative where they acted as buddies for children with special needs. Gina’s mother Jennifer shared pleas to find her on social media on Wednesday. Alaina Petty, 14, (right) was also killed. Her Mormon church confirmed her death, saying she was a ‘valiant’ member
Carmen Schentrup, 16, (left) was also killed in the shooting. Carmen was a gifted student who last year was named as a semifinalist in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. It includes students who score above average in their SATs or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. ROTC student Peter Wang, 15, (right) also died. His parents speak little English and relied on their neighbor to post social media appeals looking for him. They went to the Marriott hotel with other parents to wait for news of him on Wednesday night and have since confirmed that he was among those killed
Alex Schachter, 14, (left) was also killed. His mother died when he was a child and he attended the school in Florida with his brother, who survived. The teenager’s father Max said he was a ‘sweetheart of a child’ who ‘just wanted to do well and please his parents’. Helena Ramsey, 17, (right) was described by relatives as a ‘reserved’ and studious girl who was due to go to college next year
Geography Scott Beigel, 35, (left) was shot dead as he tried to lock the door of his classroom again after letting a group of fleeing students in to hide. They were running away from the gunman. Aaron Feis, 37, (right) died acting as a human shield. The track coach had thrown himself on top of the kids to stop the bullets from hitting him. He was a former student and was also a security guard at the school where he had worked for eight years
Athletic director Chris Hixon, 49, was also killed shielding students