Accused of cowardly hiding during the Parkland shooting last year and failing to protect the school children under his care, former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson was arrested Tuesday on seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury. Although Peterson claims that he never entered the building due to police miscommunication, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) recently determined that the resource officer retreated from the scene and later directed other officers to stay at least 500ft away from the active shooting.
On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, a nineteen-year-old expelled student, entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and began indiscriminately shooting students and teachers. As Cruz gunned down 17 students and school employees while injuring 17 others, a surveillance video recorded Deputy Peterson remaining outside the building and refusing to make any attempt to save the victims.
After investigating the Parkland shooting for more than a year and interviewing 184 witnesses, the FDLE recently determined that Peterson lied under oath by claiming that he did not hear any shots fired after taking up his position outside the school. Due to the fact that Peterson was the only other person on campus with a firearm, his inaction led to the deaths of more lives.
“The FDLE investigation shows former deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers and staff and injured 17 others,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen wrote in an email statement. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
“I was pleased the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office conducted a thorough investigation that yielded the arrest of Scot Peterson. All the facts related to Mr. Peterson’s failure to act during the MSD massacre clearly warranted both termination of employment and criminal charges. It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” stated Broward County Interim Sheriff Gregory Tony.
According to Sheriff Tony, Peterson announced his retirement shortly after the shooting but has been formally terminated from the department. Governor Ron DeSantis had suspended then-Sheriff Scott Israel for “neglect of duty and incompetence” during the Parkland shooting, but Israel is appealing the decision and plans to run again next year.
In a recent statement, Israel admitted, “This was something that is not surprising. We believe now that FDLE took the time and conducted 184 witness interviews and prepared statements and came to the same conclusion that this was the intentional inaction of Scot Peterson that caused those injuries to adults and children.”
On Tuesday, Peterson was arrested and charged with 11 counts, including seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury. The perjury charge stemmed from Peterson lying under oath to investigators about not hearing the gunshots in the nearby building.
If convicted on all counts, Peterson could face a maximum sentence of nearly 100 years in prison.
“Scott Peterson is a coward, a failure and a criminal,” asserted chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “There is no doubt in my mind that because he didn’t act, people were killed.”