Parkland resource officer charged with neglect, negligence related to school shooting
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced Tuesday the arrest of the school resource officer who was on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School the day a gunman killed 17 people.
FDLE said former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested and charged with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury. According to the Associated Press, State Attorney Mike Satz said the charges carry a combined prison sentence of nearly 100 years. Peterson's bail was set at $102,000.
In a news release, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said FDLE's 15-month investigation found Peterson "did absolutely nothing" to stop the shooting.
“There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives,” Swearingen said.
FDLE said Peterson 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.
News of Peterson's arrest broke as victims' families, school officials and law enforcement gathered at an MSD Public Safety Commission meeting in Sunrise. A loud gasp filled the room with relief, grief, and anger.
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter, Alyssa, said, "He needs to go to jail, and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones."
Gina Hoyer, whose son Luke was killed, said, tearfully, "We miss our children every day, and there’s nothing that’s gonna bring them back, and we know that. But, it hurts so much. And, I know that whatever accountability comes our way, it doesn’t bring back Luke and Alyssa. So, we’ve had to deal with that on our own. But, there needs to be accountability here. We’re standing here for a reason of failures in Broward County.”
Max Schachter, whose son, Alex was killed, had this to say about Peterson. "He was the outlier. He was the coward. I know that every other law enforcement officer from FDLE, from all across the state, cares about doing the right thing, and they’ve proved it today.”
Commissioner Swearingen said the timeline of Peterson's inaction, indeed, rises to a criminal level.
“When we saw the timeline that day, and he stood there for some 45, 48 minutes and did nothing, you know. As law enforcement officers, despite whatever policies and procedures our agencies have, we swear an oath to protect the public that we serve, and I think it says now that you will be held accountable.”
Peterson resigned and retired soon after the shooting. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said Peterson has now been fired.
Peterson was arrested at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters and booked into the Broward County Main Jail. 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's 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 Associated Press contributed to this report.
FOX 13 News reported on this story from Tampa, Florida.