Scot Peterson, then the school resource officer in Parkland, FL, waited outside while students at Stoneman Douglas High School were being shot in February, sparking national outrage, including a tweet from President Trump condemning his cowardly actions.
Peterson has issued a public apology and explanation for not going inside the school. “I didn’t get it right,” Peterson admitted. “But it wasn’t because of some, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into that building. Oh, I don’t want to face somebody in there.’ It wasn’t like that at all.”
Peterson said he never thought the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was targeting students and staff inside — even though school shootings have become tragically common, even though he had trained school staffers on how to respond to an active shooter, and even though he said over the radio at one point that he heard shots “by, inside the 1200 building” reported NBC News.
“It haunts me that I didn’t know,” he said. “I was trying to do the best I could with no information or intel at the time. … And it was just something happening so fast.”
But is Peterson the only individual who could have stopped the mass shooting?
“There shouldn’t be a need for a ‘Scot Peterson’ in the first place,” Hailey Nolasco, an expert on guns in schools, told The Crime Report.
Nolasco, from the New York City Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun violence, argued that another kind of person could help prevent a school tragedy– a credible messenger.
Credible messengers are individuals who have experienced gun violence in their own lives, and go into schools to relate to troubled young children about the dangers and consequences of violence.
A credible messenger could detect, and stop, a troubled student, such as Nicholas Cruz (Parkland, FL shooter) from shooting up a school, Nolasco noted.
In New York City, credible messengers have been placed in all five boroughs and work for the Crisis Management System, a program started by Mayor Bill de Blasio to reduce gun violence.
A credible messenger is someone who may have been in prison for using guns, Nolasco said. “These individuals are sent out into the community to mediate conflicts and instead of retaliation.”
By relying on credible messengers in the schools, there is less of an emphasis on law enforcement, such as school resource officers, Nolaso argued.
While the Crisis Management System has been implemented in high risk schools in New York, the program is applicable to schools across the U.S., Nolasco said.
“Credible messengers should be in every school. That would be amazing to have as part of public safety approach to reducing violence in general because they are relatable and a safe place for young people to be able to voice what’s going on in their lives.”
While Nolasco believed Peterson was wrong staying outside the school and saying he ‘didn’t know what was happening,’ she argued having other resources in schools could have prevented the massacre.
For Peterson, he plays February 14 over and over in his head. He cringes when his name is mentioned on the news or in headlines, and he obsessively replays the day’s events, he told the Washington Post. He worries when he shows his identification somewhere that he’ll be recognized.
According to Nolasco, society should start thinking from a preventive side instead of a reactive one.
“We need to look for the signs from shooters” she concluded.
“Look for someone who is withdrawn and let them know they are supported.”
Megan Hadley is a reporter for The Crime Report.