Florida Deputy Charged for Inaction During Parkland Shooting

MIAMI—The former Florida deputy who failed to confront a gunman during last year’s Parkland school massacre was arrested on June 4 on 11 criminal charges related to his actions, prosecutors announced.

Broward State Attorney Mike Satz said in a statement that 56-year-old Scot Peterson faces child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury charges that carry a combined potential prison sentence of nearly 100 years.

Peterson, then a Broward deputy, was on duty as the school resource officer during the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but never went inside while bullets were flying. Seventeen people died and 17 others were wounded in the attack.

Peterson’s bail was set at $102,000, Satz said. Once released, Peterson will be required to wear a GPS monitor and surrender his passport, and will be prohibited from possessing a firearm, the prosecutor said.

Peterson lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo III didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, he has defended Peterson’s conduct as justified under the circumstances.

The charges follow a 14-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to that agency.

“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 in an email statement said. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said Peterson has been formally terminated, although he announced his retirement shortly after the shooting.

“It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” Tony said.

School resource officer Scot Peterson
School resource officer Scot Peterson talks during a school board meeting of Broward County, Fla. on Feb. 18, 2015. (Broward County Public Schools via AP)

Nikolas Cruz , 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of the first-degree murder charges filed in the attack. His lawyers have said Cruz would plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.

Cruz is expected to go on trial in early 2020.

Parkland school suspect Nikolas Cruz
Parkland school suspect Nikolas Cruz listens during a hearing at the Broward Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 5, 2019. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Parkland Shooting Survivor Confronts Peterson

A survivor of the Parkland school shooting confronted Peterson early this year.

A video posted to Kyle Kashuv’s Twitter account shows him talking to the deputy in an elevator about the tragedy, and getting back silence in return. All the other occupants of the elevator remained silent as well.

“Why did you let those kids die? It’s disgusting. It’s despicable. And I hope it lives with you for the rest of your life,” Kashuv said in the video. “I was there that day. I was a student there in the building right next to it. Fourteen of my classmates never coming back because you didn’t act.”

The man Kashuv directed his comments at in the elevator was Scot Peterson—the man standing closest to Kashuv in the elevator. Peterson was working as a school resource officer on the day of the tragedy.

After the mass shooting, in which 17 students and staff died, Peterson was nicknamed the “coward of Broward” for his inaction and widely condemned. Peterson was also criticized by his superior at the time, former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

In Peterson’s interview with Today, he admitted he was wrong. He was the only armed officer on duty at the school that day. He said he ran out of his office but he took an outside position, saying that he thought the shooter might be outside.

Peterson told Today that there were also issues with communication equipment, and so he wasn’t getting information to let him know what was going on. Emergency calls from the school campus were being routed to the adjacent county.

But those who lost loved ones in the tragedy say that there has to be some accountability for Peterson’s actions so that the same situation is not allowed to happen again in the future.

By Curt Anderson and Terry Spencer

NTD News reporter Colin Fredericson contributed to this report