By Sarah Gray
February 26, 2018

The Broward County sheriff’s deputy who is accused of failing to confront the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is pushing back at claims he is a coward and did not perform his duties on the day 17 people were killed at the school he was charged with protecting.

Scot Peterson issued a statement through his lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo III, saying that he followed Broward County Sheriff’s Office protocol on Feb. 14 and that he didn’t rush into the school because he believed the gunfire was coming from outside.

“Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the seventeen victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” DiRuzzo III, said in the statement.

“However, the allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue.”

Peterson, according to the statement, believed that the shooter was outside because, “Radio transmissions indicated that there were a gunshot victim in the area of the football field.”

Peterson also detailed his efforts to stop alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz, including, he said, initiating the school lockdown and working with school administrators to help arriving officers locate the shooter.

Last week Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel revealed that Scot Peterson, a 32-year veteran, did not engage the alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, and waited for four minutes outside of the building where the shooting occurred, according to an investigation of what happened.

Israel said he should have “addressed the killer, killed the killer.” The Miami Herald reports that deputies are trained to “engage active shooters.”

“I am devastated,” Israel said at a news conference last Thursday. “Sick to my stomach. He never went in.”

Peterson retired after being suspended without pay.

Since then, Peterson has become the subject of national scorn, including from President Donald Trump who has repeatedly called him a coward. On Monday, Trump said he would have run into the school, even if he didn’t have a weapon.

Sheriff Israel is under pressure over the Broward County Sheriff’s Department response to the shooting and potential warnings about Cruz.

Seventy-three state Republican lawmakers have called on Gov. Rick Scott to suspend him “incompetence and neglect of duty.”

Read Peterson’s full statement below, via the Associated Press.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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