Armed Florida school officer defends actions after being branded a "coward" by Trump

Officer Scot Peterson says he thought the shots were coming from outside the building

Armed Florida school officer defends actions after being branded a "coward" by Trump

File photo of Officer Scott Peterson, 23-02-2018. Image: AP/Press Association Images

An armed officer who was branded a “coward” by the US President over his failure to confront the Florida school shooter has defended his actions.

Officer Scot Peterson was armed and in uniform outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland as the attack was ongoing.

He took up a position at the side of the building but never went inside.

17 people were murdered in the Valentine’s Day attack.

In a statement read out by his lawyer, Officer Peterson insisted he did not enter the building as he believed the gunfire was coming from outside.

Coward

Speaking last week US President Donald Trump labelled the officer "a coward" who didn't react under pressure.

When it later emerged that there were other officers also on scene, the president said they "weren't exactly Medal of Honour winners."

He also insisted he would have entered the school himself during the attack even if he was unarmed.

Speaking at the White House, President Trump said: “You don’t know until you’re tested but I think I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that too.”

“Patently untrue”

Reading Officer Peterson’s statement, lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo said it was "patently untrue" that Mr Peterson failed to meet standards or that he acted with cowardice during the attack.

"Let there be no mistake, Mr Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need," he added.

The statement follows Mr Peterson resigning from his post after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel criticised him for failing to intervene.

Oversimplification

Sheriff Israel said he was “sick to my stomach” that Officer Peterson never entered the building, adding that he should have “addressed the killer; killed the killer.”

Mr DiRuzzo said the sheriff's account of Mr Peterson's actions that day was a "gross oversimplification."

The sheriff's office declined news agency requests for comment but said Mr Peterson's conduct was under investigation.

Attack

Officer Peterson said that he and a security officer ran to the scene when they were alerted to the shooting - which was reported as firecrackers being set off near a building, according to the officer's statement.

He then heard gunshots "but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings".

The officer "took up a tactical position" between two nearby buildings while alerting dispatchers and initiating a "code red" lockdown.

The statement said "radio transmissions indicated that there was a gunshot victim in the area of the football field" adding to Mr Peterson's belief the shooting was taking place outside.

With reporting from IRN ...