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.
BREAKING: If convicted, the deputy who didn’t confront the Parkland high school shooter could face nearly 100 years in prison. https://t.co/LCnbIcm8Il
— WKYT (@WKYT) June 4, 2019
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.
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 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.
Deputy Scot Peterson hid outside while 17 of my classmates and teachers were massacred at Stoneman Douglas.
Today I confronted him, face to face, for his crimes.
Watch this coward for yourself. pic.twitter.com/d5WQuohXfL
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) February 27, 2019
“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.
This Coward knew exactly where the shooter was and opted to cower behind a wall while everyone else was defenseless.
Three unarmed staff members died trying to stop the shooter.
He swore to “protect and serve.”
Now after letting 17 people be murdered, he gets paid 104k a year. pic.twitter.com/lOtxuwjOTq
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) February 27, 2019
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.
2 of 2 His duty was to protect them, and he willfully chose not to do so. In the military, this is punishable by death, but in Florida we award a six-figure pension. This is wrong.https://t.co/isovDSrdhW
— SpencerRoach (@SpencerRoachFL) February 27, 2019
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