Disgraced former Broward Sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson is embroiled in further questions about his handling of last month’s school shooting.
Documents obtained by the Associated Press show that Peterson and two school counselors recommended in September 2016 that shooter Nikolas Cruz be involuntarily committed for mental evaluation. Had Peterson followed through, Cruz would likely have been unable to legally purchase firearms.
The documents, provided by Henderson Behavioral Health as part of Cruz’s case, were part of a psychological assessment that began after Cruz’s since-deceased mother, Lynda, discovered that he had punched holes in the wall at home.
Cruz told Henderson evaluators he damaged the wall because he was upset that his girlfriend broke up with him. He also admitted to cutting his arm with a pencil sharpener.
The report of a September 28, 2016 interview read that Cruz “cut his arms 3-4 weeks ago and states that this is the only time he has ever cut. (Cruz) states that he cut because he was lonely, states that he had broken up with his girlfriend and reports that his grades had fallen. (Cruz) states that he is better now, reports that he is no longer lonely and states that his grades have gone back up.”
He also told clinicians that he only owned a pellet gun and would never do “serious harm” to another person.
School staff and Peterson, then serving as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s assigned resource officer, had also observed Cruz exhibit disturbing behavior.
He had written the word “kill” in a notebook, told another student he wanted to buy and use a gun, and had claimed to have consumed gasoline and vomited.
Under Florida’s Baker Act, Peterson, as a Broward Sheriff’s deputy, had the authority to initiate Cruz’s commitment to an involuntary mental health evaluation for at least three days.
If Cruz had been institutionalized, it would have appeared on his record and constituted a major red flag at the moment of trying to buy a gun.
Documents do not show that Cruz was ever committed, nor is it known why Peterson did not act on his own recommendation.
The former deputy has been called a “coward” for staying outside the school while the shooting took place inside.
It was previously reported that the FBI received, but did not act on, tips about Cruz’s potential of becoming a school shooter, including one just a month before the 19-year-old killed 17 people at the school from which he was expelled.
Law enforcement also visited Cruz’s home several times before for domestic disturbances before the mass shooting took place.
Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
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