OAN’s Brooke Mallory
2:57 PM – Thursday, June 29, 2023
On Thursday, a former school security officer was found not guilty of failing to approach the shooter who killed 17 individuals at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
Scot Peterson, a former Broward County sheriff’s deputy and Marjory Stoneman Douglas resource officer, was charged in 2019 with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury.
He burst into tears when the unanimous judgment was read out on Thursday.
According to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, the charges carried a maximum possible sentence of 96 1/2 years in state prison.
In the incident on February 14th, 2018, seventeen lives were lost, which included students, teachers, and other staff.
When the shooter began firing, Peterson, 60, was the only other person in the school with a gun. Following the killings, he was compelled to retire out of shame and guilt.
Peterson was apprehended in Broward County following a 15-month investigation that purportedly revealed he “refused to investigate the source of the 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,” according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Department Commissioner Rick Swearingen asserted that Peterson “did absolutely nothing” to halt the attack.
“There can be no excuse for his complete inaction, and no question that his inaction cost lives,” Swearingen maintained.
Previous defense attorneys for Peterson have called the charges against him “unprecedented” and “spurious.”
“The State’s actions appear to be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution against Mr. Peterson,” said attorney Joseph DiRuzzo in a 2019 statement. “The charges against Mr. Peterson should be dismissed immediately.”
Nikolas Cruz, a former pupil, pleaded guilty to the 17 murders. 14 of the victims were students, while three were teachers and staff who died while fleeing danger or assisting others to safety.
In 2022, a jury recommended that Cruz be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release for the 2018 massacre rather than the death penalty.
“I’m sorry,” he said in an interview while holding back tears.
The former guard apologized to the families of the 17 victims in an appearance on NBC’s TODAY show around three months after the incident.
The law enforcement veteran, with 33 years in the field, stated at the time that it was not fear that prevented him from entering the school as the gunman roamed the corridors with an AR-15. It was confusion, misunderstanding, and his mistaken belief that the rounds were fired from outside by a sniper.
“I didn’t get it right,” Peterson admitted. “But it wasn’t because of some, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into that building. Oh, I don’t want to face somebody in there.’ It wasn’t like that at all.”
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