Thursday, a Florida sheriff’s deputy was acquitted of felony child neglect and other counts for failing to act during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, ending the first U.S. law enforcement officer prosecution for on-campus shooting actions.
Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson cried during the verdicts. The four-day jury deliberated for 19 hours.
Peterson, his family, and friends hugged as court adjourned, whooping and crying. His supporter chased lead prosecutor Chris Killoran and said something. “Way to be a good winner,” Killoran said and slapped him. Prosecutors pushed Killoran out of the courtroom.
Peterson, the campus deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was charged with failing to approach Nikolas Cruz during his six-minute rampage inside the three-story 1200 classroom building on Feb. 14, 2018, that ki!!ed 17 people.
Given the facts and his clean background, a sentence of over 100 years was implausible. He risked losing his $104,000 annual pension.
During their two-week presentation, prosecutors invited students, instructors, and law enforcement officers to testify about Cruz’s whereabouts and their fear. Some said they were sure the gunfire came from the 1200 building. A training supervisor testified that Peterson violated active shooter protocols.
There has been no Justice for the Parkland families. The killer doesn’t get the death penalty and now the officer, that the students trusted, that he let bleed to death because he didn’t go into the building since he was close to retirement gets no repercussions. This is shameful https://t.co/fB73UrtkWN
— Jared Moskowitz 🟧 (@JaredEMoskowitz) June 29, 2023
Mark Eiglarsh, Peterson’s attorney, called many officers who arrived during the shooting and students and teachers who said they didn’t think the rounds came from the 1200 building during his two-day presentation. Echoes prevented Peterson, who did not testify, from locating the shooter.
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Eiglarsh also noted that the sheriff’s radio system failed during the attack, limiting Peterson’s deputies’ communications.
“As parents, we expect that armed school resource officers – who are under contract to be caregivers to our children – will do their jobs when we entrust our children to them and the schools they guard,” Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor and the prosecutor’s office said after the verdict. “They have special roles and responsibilities that go beyond police officers. I say, “It is not political to expect someone to do their job.”
36 seconds after Cruz began his attack, Peterson left his office and rushed into a cart with two unarmed civilian security guards. The structure was reached a minute later.
Peterson exited the cart near the east first-floor hallway entryway. Cruz was firing his AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle across the corridor.
After the verdict, Peterson told reporters, “I’ve got my life back.”:
Peterson did not open the door. He took refuge 75 feet (23 meters) away in an adjacent building’s alcove, still armed. After the shooting, he stayed for 40 minutes.
Peterson worked at Stoneman Douglas for nine years. He retired and was dismissed retroactively.
Cruz’s jury split. The 24-year-old ex-Stoneman Douglas student received a life sentence.