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Runcie: School Cop's Decision Not To Engage Shooter Was 'Despicable'

Robert Runcie
Charles Trainor Jr.
Miami Herald
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie addresses reporters at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 23.

The superintendent of Broward County schools said a campus cop's decision not to enter the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where a shooter killed 17 on Feb. 14 was "inexcusable" and "despicable."

Referring to school resource officer Scot Peterson, Robert Runcie told reporters gathered outside the school on Friday morning: "I wish he had the same kind of courage that our teachers that have showed up here today have."

Teachers had the option to go back to the Parkland school on Friday and are expected to report for planning days Monday and Tuesday; Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said all of the school's approximately 150 teachers showed up Friday. Students are to return Wednesday.

Runcie said he didn't want to demonize school resource officers county-wide, suggesting Peterson's decision not to engage suspect Nikolas Cruz during the attack was an individual, not systemic, problem. The Broward sheriff announced on Thursday that Peterson was standing outside Building 12, which held about 550 students, but chose not to respond during the emergency.

Runcie said he didn't know what motivated Peterson's "outrageous" inaction.

“As far as we know, there wasn’t anything prohibiting that officer entering the school and doing what he could,” he said.

Fusco said the sheriff's office "took the right measures" to suspend Peterson, but she hopes his motives are investigated so law enforcement agencies can learn from this for the future.

"I hope they are taking the measures to really find out why and how, so they can help everyone else that's put in that position, that's there to protect, to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.

Runcie also addressed President Donald Trump's suggestion that some teachers should be armed to deter and respond to school shootings. He said: "I am totally against arming teachers. ... If we really want to do something, spend money on adding more school resource officers."

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.