Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to comment Tuesday when asked whether he agrees with President Donald Trump’s suggestion that a sheriff’s deputy who failed to intervene in a deadly school shooting earlier this month was a “coward.”
“I don’t have any comment on that,” Sessions said in respond to a question from POLITICO at an event focused on anti-opioid abuse efforts. “I haven’t examined that matter in detail and would prefer not to comment.”
Last Friday, Trump singled out by name Broward County deputy Scot Peterson, who was assigned to the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were slain earlier this month.
“When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened. But he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that,” Trump told reporters. “So, he certainly did a poor job. But that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or under pressure or they were a coward.”
Following the incident, Peterson resigned. But through an attorney Monday, he defended his actions.
“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,” lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo said in a statement. “Mr. Peterson is confident that his actions on that day were appropriate under the circumstances and that the video (together with the eyewitness testimony of those on the scene) will exonerate him of any sub-par performance.”
In explaining why the deputy did not enter the school, DiRuzzo said that Peterson was initially told the shooting was firecrackers and later believed the shooting was coming from outside the building.
Sessions is frequently critical of others, including his predecessors in the Obama administration, for being too quick to fault law enforcement officers over their conduct.
Earlier in the press conference Tuesday, Sessions stressed the importance of respecting the role played by local law enforcement personnel.
“We all need to recognize that 85 percent of law enforcement in America are our state and local officers throughout this country,” the attorney general said. “They are out there every day on the front lines. We are working with them. We will support them to make their efforts even more successful.”