Deputy who didn't enter Parkland high school during shooting arrested

'No excuse' for Scot Peterson's 'inaction,' FDLE commissioner says

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - A deputy who was working as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's resource officer on the day more than a year ago when a former student entered the campus and gunned down students and staff, leaving 17 dead, has been charged with child neglect, negligence and perjury.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said former Deputy Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested Tuesday in Broward County after a 15-month investigation into his actions the day of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The FDLE investigation revealed 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," according to a news release.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said that, as a result of the FLE findings, Peterson and Sgt. Brian Miller were fired from the Sheriff's Office on Tuesday. The sheriff's office conducted internal investigation of seven deputies who responded to the school shooting.

“The deputy and sergeant were found to have neglected their duties at MSD High School,” according to the Sheriff’s Office statement. “They have been terminated and will no longer be privileged to serve as law enforcement deputies for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”

The former student accused of carrying out the attack, Nikolas Cruz, 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack. He has offered to plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.

In the months after the shooting, Peterson told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission that he followed the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s training and policies for handling an active-shooter crisis. Peterson refused to testify in front of the commission but later provided a 14-page rebuttal of the group's findings, he South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Peterson served as the high school's resource officer for eight years, according to the arrest warrant.

FDLE agents reviewed hours of surveillance video, interviewed 184 witnesses and worked more than 800 hours to determine how law enforcement officers responded to the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting.

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

Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from his post, and appointed Tony, a former Coral Springs police sergeant, to replace Israel.

On Tuesday, Tony praised the thorough FDLE investigation.

"All the facts related to Mr. Peterson’s failure to act during the MSD massacre clearly warranted both termination of employment and criminal charges," Tony said in a statement. "It’s never too late for accountability and justice."

Peterson is charged with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.

The Broward County State Attorney's Office will prosecute the case.

State Attorney Mike ​​Satz said the charges carry a combined prison sentence of nearly 100 years. Peterson's bail was set at $102,000.

Peterson's lawyer didn't immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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