The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (5): “It Was Chaos”

This article is (in most but not all respects) a useful corrective to the reflexive, unwarranted demonization of Scot Peterson over the Parkland shooting of 2018. The “chaos” to which the article refers arose because it was unclear where “the” shooter was, and how many shooters there were. Unfortunately, like so much journalism on this topic, the article seems to suggest that there was chaos for everyone but Scot Peterson, who infallibly knew that there was one shooter, and knew in real time exactly (or even approximately) where this shooter was. Just to be clear: there is no evidence in the public domain that indicates this. The evidence indicates the reverse: that he did not know how many shooters there were, or where any of these shooters were.

So this claim is tendentious and unwarranted by the evidence in the public domain:

Former Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy and school resource officer Scot Peterson resigned after failing to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz. Peterson told other deputies to stay away from where he believed the shooting was happening, in contravention of how police are trained to respond to active shooters.

On his testimony, not directly contradicted by anything in the public record, Scot Peterson did not “fail” to do anything. He says that he did not enter the 1200 building for the 73 seconds when Nikolas Cruz was in it and he was near it because he didn’t know that Cruz was in it. He makes this claim because he couldn’t localize the gunfire that he heard, and didn’t hear the rest because the building was heavily sound-proofed. He wasn’t the only person who failed to hear or localize the gunfire; the same thing is true of the students and faculty on the third floor of the 1200 building itself, while Cruz was shooting on the first floor the building. You may not believe Scot Peterson; you may think he’s lying. But it’s dishonest to pretend that his testimony can simply be waved away as irrelevant.

Peterson told other deputies to stay away from the 1200 building not because he believed that Cruz was in it, but because he wasn’t sure where Cruz was. And regarding much of the time when Peterson supposedly “failed” to go into the building, Cruz was not in the building.  Going into the building to “confront Cruz” would have been pointless because Cruz was not there to be confronted. When officers finally entered the building, Cruz had long since fled it. They didn’t confront him, either.

It’s worth bearing in mind that an entire team of heavily armed officers took far, far longer to clear the 1200 building than the 73 seconds that Peterson would have had had he entered the building and been required to clear it. And this was with Cruz not in it. In other words, it took longer for a whole tactical team to clear a building that had no shooter in it than is demanded of one ordinary patrol officer to clear the same building with a shooter in it. It’s all easy enough to say or imagine until you ask the simple question, “How?”

The entire case against Peterson, I now feel confident in saying, is based on the mock-heroic fantasy that one officer could, by imitating a Bruce Willis movie, have localized gunfire he couldn’t hear, confronted a gunman he couldn’t see, and prevailed in a gunfight against a gunman who had the advantages of a superior tactical location, better visibility, better weaponry, murderous cunning, and lack of any element of surprise. The whole scenario is, honestly, so fucking stupid that it boggles the mind that it’s been so uncritically accepted by the entire journalistic community, by popular opinion, by the law enforcement and political establishment eager to throw Peterson under the bus, and by unscrupulous prosecutors willing to use their judicial power to prosecute an innocent man and subvert the rule of law. But it has.

When history is written, this case will finally, I hope, be seen in an impartial light for what it is: a descent into mass hysteria at the expense of a single undeserving victim. The event was chaos in real time. It didn’t have to be treated so chaotically after the fact. Scot Peterson is being blamed for not figuring out in 73 seconds what his critics have not figured out in almost two years. The shame and sense of national disgrace will finally kick in when the facts start to trickle into people’s minds and we realize just how badly the whole case has been reported, but that of course will be far too late for the man victimized by it all. Justice delayed, it’s been said, is justice denied. Justice has already been denied. The only remaining question is how long it will be delayed.

3 thoughts on “The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (5): “It Was Chaos”

  1. I am going to see the Richard Jewell movie in December, so I can watch another poor bastard get crucified by the media and law enforcement.

    –Scot Peterson, in an email to me, describing his plans for the holiday season.

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  2. The LEO’s (professionals) went into the building after victims call “their” 911 center, after receiving calls from victims in the 1200 Building. There dispatch told their officers, 2 minutes after the POS was off-campus. Over four minutes after the calls came in, the POS was gone, the teams went in and cleared the building, finishing after 5pm, over 2.5hrs later. (No officers or emergency staff knew where the POS was at until he was arrested over an hour later). But all LEO’s Firefighters K-9’s on-campus did an outstanding job, with the information they had at the time they had it.

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    • Thanks for that insight. I’m slowly making my way through the Public Safety Commission Report. It would take a document as long as the Report itself to describe all the ways in which it goes wrong, but the most obvious thing is its obvious, transparent animosity for and bias against Scot Peterson. The authors so obviously have it in for Peterson that they devote a chapter to attacking him without making any attempt to explain, in neutral terms, how his actions fit in or compared with anyone else’s actions. They ignore explicit, obvious exculpatory evidence right there in the report: that he called a Code Red, that he wasn’t aware of the shooter’s location, that the shots he heard were shots fired when the building’s door was open, that another officer heard shots but only when the door was likely to be open, that other officers claimed to hear shots outside, etc.

      The accusation against Scot Peterson turns on the idea that he somehow knew that there was one and only one shooter, that he knew that this single shooter was inside, that he knew the shooter was on the third floor, that he somehow would have entered the east side of the building, right underneath the shooter, climbed the stairs, opened the door, and shot the shooter without being detected or shot to pieces–all in about 73 seconds. Never mind that at one point, while Cruz was on the third floor, he (Cruz) mysteriously doubled back toward the very stairs that Peterson would have climbed to reach the third floor. If Peterson had actually been climbing them, his life would likely have ended right there.

      It just amazes me what some of these armchair tacticians will come up with. Maybe we should arm the next generation of cops with crystal balls, magic wands, and pixie dust? What shooter stands a chance against that?

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