By Kate Samuelson
June 5, 2018

The Broward County school resource officer who was forced to resigned following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, admitted he failed the 17 students and staffers who were killed on Feb. 14 – but insists it’s not because he was a coward.

Scot Peterson, who was the only armed officer at the school when the shooting started, blamed confusion, communication problems and his belief that the gunman was outside of the school – not inside of it – for his failure to enter the building and stop alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.

“I would have had to check every single classroom. That’s what we’re trained,” Peterson told Savannah Guthrie in an interview Tuesday on NBC’s Today show. “You can’t just go willy nilly and go ‘Oh lemme look here, lemme look there.’ You have to check each room. I don’t do a lot of the ‘what ifs’ because, you know, this has been so hard.”

As for claims that he was the “Coward of Broward” for not confronting the gunman, Peterson said, “I never thought for a moment of being scared or a coward because I was just doing things the whole time. It never entered my mind.”

He added: “The families need to know I didn’t get it right, but it wasn’t because of some, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into that building.’ It wasn’t like that at all.”

Guthrie asked: “Why did it not occur to you that it could be an active shooter when we’ve had so many school shootings and you’ve had all that training? Why wasn’t that the first thing you’ve thought? My goodness, it’s happened here.”

Peterson responded, “It really wasn’t. Because when I heard those shots outside, I didn’t even think someone was inside the building. It just didn’t even, those first several minutes because my mind was racing.”

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

In the days following the shooting, President Donald Trump weighed in, telling reporters that Peterson “certainly did a poor job, there’s no question about that.” He added: “That’s a case where somebody who is outside, they’re trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure, or they were a coward.”

Peterson also admitted that he had not stopped thinking about that day. “This will haunt me the rest of my life,” he added. “Those were my kids in there. I never would’ve sat there and let my kids get slaughtered. Never.”

Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com.

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