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Disgraced deputy speaks out about Parkland school shooting

The former sheriff's deputy who has been widely criticized for his actions during a mass shooting that left 17 dead at a Florida high school will break his silence during a two-part interview on NBC's "Today Show."

Scot Peterson, who spent over three decades with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and nearly the last decade as the man patrolling the Parkland, Florida school where Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Feb. 14, spoke with The Washington Post and NBC's Savannah Gutherie about that day and the ensuing criticism he has received from those who feel he didn’t do enough to protect the school.

“It’s haunting,” Peterson told the Post from his Boynton Beach home. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost seventeen.”

Peterson told Gutherie in an interview that will air Tuesday and Wednesday on the "Today" show that he should have done more after hearing shots fired inside the 1200 building shortly after 2 p.m.

“I live with that, how could I not?” Peterson said. “I’m human. In the perfect world, I would have said, ‘Oh yeah, I know there is a shooter in there. Let me go to the third floor, find this person.’ Knowing what I know today, I would have been in that building in a heartbeat. It was my kids.”

Peterson, who retired from the department shortly after the shooting, has been the subject of condemnation, being called everything from a “disgrace” by Sheriff Scott Israel to a “coward” by President Donald Trump.

Surveillance video showed Peterson standing outside one of the school’s buildings during the shooting, radioing in for additional deputies and officers from other agencies to respond to the school.

Peterson told the Post that he hadn't known whether the gunshots he heard had come from outside or inside the 1200 building. Even though he later read that the gunman had fired more than 150 rounds, he said he only heard two or three shots. He would have known where to find the gunman if he heard more shots, he told the newspaper, which reported Peterson often returns to the issue while trying to make sense of his response to the shooting.

“I just didn’t know,” he said. “Why didn’t I know to go in?”

Peterson is the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of Meadow Pollack, one of the four seniors who were honored Sunday at the school’s graduation ceremony.

The lawsuit claims a "pusillanimous" Peterson "cowered in a safe location between two concrete walls" as the gunman "rained bullets upon the teachers and students."

"Peterson is my main target," Pollack’s father, Andrew, told The Associated Press. "He could have stopped it. Could have saved my kid. Nobody should be able to not do their job, receive a pension and ride off into the sunset."

Peterson has been receiving over $8,700 a month in pension from the state following his retirement.

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