‘I Am Not a Coward!’

Remember the old saying, “The proof is in the pudding?”

Linguist Ben Zimmer, who wrote for the Boston Globe from 2011 to 2013, said, “The original version is, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ And what it meant was that you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.”

It’s a manner of saying that we are defined and judged not by our thoughts, feelings, intuition or intent but by our actions and the results of our actions.

Scot Peterson proclaims that he is not a coward.

Originally from Illinois, Scot Peterson was the armed, deputized school resource officer who hid outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14 while 17 students and staff were murdered and more than a dozen injured. Peterson “remained outside for upwards of four minutes” while children and teachers screamed, bled and died, according to Sheriff Scott Israel. Peterson also told other deputies not to go inside.

Joe DiRuzzo III, Peterson’s lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has even issued a statement: “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.” He says Peterson, age 54, is being treated unfairly.

Peterson has since resigned from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, ending a 33-year career in law enforcement. His whereabouts in a fully vested retirement are unknown. DiRuzzo says Peterson wished he could have “prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day.”

School with a fence around it

Do you remember the days when schools did not have to be fenced and surrounded by razor wire? Is this the fault of a gun or the fault of a culture which has jettisoned all rules and values? If you were near this school — a gun-free zone — and heard shots and screams, what would you do?

What brings this to mind is the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Andrew Pollack, whose 17-year-old daughter Meadow was butchered that day. In the lawsuit, he names former deputy Peterson, the killer Nikolas Cruz, the estate of Cruz’s mother, three behavioral and mental facilities that treated Cruz, and the couple Cruz was living with and who allowed Cruz to access weapons (Kimberly and James Snead).

Mr. Pollack is asking for only $15,000. He says the lawsuit is not about the money. In a Tweet, he wrote, “I want to be sure anywhere [Peterson] goes in this country he will be recognized as the coward that could have gone in and saved the students and teachers on the third floor.”

So, I’m wondering what might be the result if you or I, who have training and permits for concealed weapons, fail to intervene at the time of some school or public shooting? Is it likely that we could be sued if people die if we either refuse or fail to intervene?

I am not a lawyer, but I believe a concealed carry holder would be shielded if he or she did not intervene. And the potential consequences of getting involved could, depending on circumstances and outcome, be wild and crazy. Still, this is America. Anyone can be sued at any time for practically anything.

New York, 2015: While celebrating his birthday at his aunt’s residence, 8-year-old Sean Tarala jumps into the arms of Jennifer Connell to give her a hug. Connell falls, breaks her wrist and sues the child for $127,000, claiming a “reasonable eight-year-old” would know better and that she now has trouble holding her hors d’oeuvres plate at a party. A jury found in the nephew’s favor.

Georgia, 2016: An employee of R. Henry Inc. is replacing letters on a bank sign above a grocery store. DeToya Moody ignores the orange safety cones and walks straight into a bright orange ladder while texting. She sues because her head has an indentation, and she claims to suffer from a concussion and headaches. A jury finds her 8 percent liable but awards her $161,000.

So, is Scot Peterson a coward for not attempting to save Parkland’s children? I have my own opinion. I thought of the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast: “Mene. Mene. Tekel. Upharsin.” The fact that the armed, trained, sworn officer “wished he could” have done something is irrelevant. He has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. The proof is in the pudding. What would you do?