Disgraced former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson is finally being held accountable for failing to act during the Parkland high school shooting that left 17 people dead and 17 others wounded last year.
Peterson, 56, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the controversial law enforcement (lack of) response to the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The former school security officer is charged with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury as a result of a 15-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Officials determined that Peterson and Sgt. Brian Miller, “neglected their duties,” and both were terminated on Tuesday.
Peterson was taken into custody after an administrative discipline hearing and has been booked into the Broward County jail on a $102,000 bond. Under the terms of his release, Peterson will be required to wear a GPS monitor, must surrender his passport, and will be banned from possessing any firearms. If convicted on all counts, Peterson could face more than 96 years in prison.
Peterson’s arrest warrant reveals disturbing details.
According to the arrest warrant, “Deputy Scot Peterson, while acting as a caregiver, willfully neglected [REDACTED] by failing to immediately take action, as he was trained and is required of a caregiver, to stop the active shooter, Nikolas Cruz. In failing to, or refusing to, address Nikolas Cruz’s actions, exhibited a reckless indifference to or grossly careless disregard for others.”
You can read the full arrest warrant below. Beginning on page 4, Peterson’s training is described. On page 5, there is a list of 18 training sessions he attended that “pertained to school safety and how to respond to an active shooter incident.”
Scot Peterson- Warrant .pdf by on Scribd
The investigation uncovered just how cowardly Peterson was that day.
“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 said in a statement. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
“The investigation showed Peterson refused to investigate where the gunshots were coming from, retreated during the gunfire as victims were being shot, did not move from his hiding place for 48 minutes, and directed other law enforcement who arrived on the scene to remain 500 feet away from the building,” FDLE spokeswoman Jessica Cary said in an emailed statement to the Orlando Sentinel.
In January, Governor Ron DeSantis suspended the Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, citing neglect of duty and “incompetence.” Israel was replaced with Gregory Tony, a former sergeant with the Coral Springs Police Department. Tony oversaw the investigation of seven deputies at the department.
“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,” Sheriff Tony said. “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.”
Some experts are surprised Peterson was charged.
The criminal charges were “an unusual instance of law enforcement officers being held criminally liable for failing to protect the public”, reports The New York Times:
“This is the first time I have seen somebody so charged like this,” said Clinton R. Van Zandt, a former profiler with the F.B.I. and an expert on mass shootings. “I think that every police officer, sheriff and F.B.I. agent understands that you have to go to the threat and stop it and that we are no longer going to wait for SWAT or set up perimeters.”
Van Zandt said prosecutors appeared to be sending a message to the community that “we hear you are disappointed, and we will let the criminal justice system determine whether he made significant mistakes, whether perhaps he was a coward or not, or whether he acted properly with the information that he had.”
But, he contended, “it is going to be a challenge for prosecutors if the deputy stays with his story that his training did not teach him that, and that the circumstances did not dictate to him that his actions should have been to go in rather than facilitate the rescue of kids coming out and direct responding police officers coming in. In essence, he was directing traffic.” (source)
As stated earlier, according to page 5 of the arrest warrant, Peterson was in fact trained on how to handle active shooter situations.
Peterson probably could have saved lives if he tried to stop Cruz.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reviewed reports, timelines, audio, and video recordings and found a number of circumstances that influenced the outcome that day. They came to a chilling conclusion:
Every second counted. If Peterson had charged into the 1200 building and bounded up three flights of stairs within a minute, he might have headed off the shooter and cut short his deadly rampage.
Families of the victims commented on Peterson’s arrest.
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was shot in the spinal cord as she fled for her life, saidof the charges:
“My daughter was one of the last to be shot. My daughter absolutely could have been saved by him and she wasn’t.
Certainly not disappointed and not surprised. He needs to rot. He has continued to abuse the families by continuing to lie about how he failed my child and 16 others. He deserves to rot. He is responsible in large part for why my daughter is gone and I have no sympathy for him, I’m glad he’s been arrested.
Had she had one more second she would have been saved. She was turning into the stairwell. I hope they make his life as miserable as possible.” (source)
Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, died in the attack, said he welcomed Peterson’s arrest:
“It’s about accountability, and there’s to be more in Broward County,” said Mr. Pollack, who previously filed a wrongful-death suit against Mr. Peterson. “We knew all along that this guy did something very terrible. He let my daughter die, and a lot of other victims in the school — teachers and children — and he didn’t do his job.” (source)
Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, 14, also died that day, said:
“He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones. It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat, and he froze and he did nothing.” (source)
What do you think?
Do you think Peterson will actually serve time? What do you think schools should do to prevent tragedies like this from occurring? Please share your thoughts in the comments.