Scot Peterson faces felony child neglect charges after the Broward County sheriff’s deputy reportedly hid during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018. A judge denied the request to dismiss the 11 charges Wednesday and the former school resource officer will now need to go to trial.
Peterson is accused of hiding outside a high school building while the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was inside targeting students. During the massacre, Cruz killed 17 people and injured many others, in what is deemed the deadliest high school shooting in American history. Now Scot Peterson is accused of being criminally negligent during the Parkland shooting and will have to prove in court that he did all he could to save lives.
Peterson’s attorneys previously requested the 11 charges be dismissed. Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein refused to dismiss the child negligence charges. The 58-year-old resource officer allegedly failed to rescue students as Nikolas Crus continued his rampage. Because Peterson was the school’s resource officer and armed on the scene at the time of the shooting, many believe he could have helped or even prevented deaths. Parents continue to wonder: Could he have done more to save some of the students?
Prosecutors insisted that Scot Peterson broke laws specifically applying to caregivers, claiming he did not do everything in his power to rescue children during the fatal incident. His defense attorneys, however, argued during Wednesday’s hearing that he was a law enforcement officer and didn’t fit the definition of a caregiver – thus he isn’t to blame. It was then rebutted that school resource officers fit a separate definition from other law enforcement officers and should be given the legal responsibility of the caregiver.
Scot Peterson’s attorney Mark Eiglarsh said that “we are extremely disappointed with the judge’s decision and plan to appeal. We take solace knowing that the truth will come out at trial. My client is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, and did all he could to save lives during Nikolas Cruz’s abhorrent massacre.”
Eiglarsh continued, explaining that “the public has been fed a false narrative about Scot Peterson. We have overwhelming evidence proving that the numerous actions that my client took during the attack was done to save lives.”
Outside of the courtroom, Eiglarsh explained that “as a matter of law he should never have been charged under a neglect statute which holds responsible parents, teachers, kidnappers, babysitters — but not resource officers. It’s very clear in the statute that law enforcement officers do not apply.”
Prosecutor Chris Killoran had a different sentiment. “He is a caregiver and his responsibilities encompass that of law enforcement, but they go beyond law enforcement and they are kind of a hybrid position in the schools. And as such he is a caregiver and your honor should deny this motion,” according to Killoran.
In a post-hearing interview, Scot Peterson gave an emotional speech. He told reporters that he’d “never forget the day.” He continued, saying that “not only kids died. I had friends that died. Never for a second would I sit there and allow anyone to die knowing that animal was up in the building. Never. I didn’t do anything there to try and hurt any child there on the scene. I did the best I could with the information.”
He echoed his plea in his emotional conclusion: “I did the best.”
Despite his conviction, security camera footage from the tragic Valentine’s Day shooting showed the resource officer cowering near the 700 and 800 buildings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The footage documented Scot Peterson’s actions during the massacre and revealed that he hid for 45-minutes while Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students, faculty, and other people inside the school building. A total of 17 people were killed and 17 others were wounded in the shooting.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office claimed that “the video speaks for itself.” The department said that it proves Scot Peterson is guilty of child negligence for his lack of action during the shooting.