Law & the Courts

Broward Officer Who Failed to Engage Parkland Shooter Charged with Child Neglect

Shooting survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., at the “March for Our Lives” event demanding gun control in Washington, D.C., March 24, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Scot Peterson, the former Broward County sheriff’s deputy who was heavily criticized for refusing to engage the Parkland school shooter, was arrested Tuesday and charged with child neglect, negligence, and perjury.

Peterson was officially dismissed from the Broward Police and then immediately taken into custody and charged with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury in connection with his actions during the mass shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

Peterson, who was on duty as the school-resource officer during the shooting, was lambasted by the national press, fellow Broward officers, and members of the community after surveillance video emerged that showed him standing outside the entrance to the school for almost the entirety of the shooting.

“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,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”

In a statement announcing Peterson’s arrest following a 15-month investigation, the FDLE claimed that he “refused to investigate the source of gunshots, retreated during the active shooting while victims were being shot and directed other law enforcement who arrived on scene to remain 500 feet away from the building.”

Peterson initially told investigators that he didn’t enter the building after being dropped off by a security guard at one of its entrances because he thought the shots were coming from outside, on the school’s athletic fields. But internal police radio dispatches released in March demonstrated that Peterson knew the shots were coming from inside the building.

If convicted, Peterson faces nearly 97 years in prison and his bond has been set at $102,000.

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