Scot Peterson: Officer from Parkland charged with failing to stop shooting
When a shooter opened fire at a Florida school in Parkland in 2018, a former sheriff’s deputy was accused of neglecting to protect the pupils.
At the time of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack, Scot Peterson was the police officer in uniform.
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, he is the only US officer to have been charged with failing to act after a shooting at a school.
The 60-year-old could spend as many as 97 years behind bars.
He is accused with eleven offenses: seven counts of criminal child maltreatment, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury.
In order to reduce casualties during the six-minute onslaught, the prosecution claims that Mr. Peterson, who was in possession of a weapon but was not wearing a bulletproof vest, did not adhere to his active-shooter training.
According to CCTV evidence, he did not enter the structure when shots were being fired.
One of the bloodiest school shootings in US history resulted in 17 fatalities and 17 injuries.
The prosecution’s Steven Klinger told the jury during opening comments on Wednesday that Mr. Peterson had been a school resource officer since 1991 and had “received numerous trainings on school safety and active shooters, which direct officers to run toward the sound of gunfire.”
Mr. Klinger claims that Mr. Peterson waited for 30 to 40 minutes in an alcove next to the school before the shooting ended.
Mr. Peterson “could not determine precisely where the shots were coming from,” according to defense counsel Mark Eiglarsh.
22 witnesses, according to his defense, would testify that they were perplexed about the location of the gunfire as well.
“What we have here is a man with a decorated history of serving the community for 32 years, and in literally four minutes and 15 seconds, they’re claiming he became a criminal,” said Mr. Eiglarsh.
Mr. Eiglarsh claims the shooter was the “monster” responsible for that day while displaying a photo of him.
Prosecutors must convince the jury that Mr. Peterson knew the shooter was inside the building and that his alleged inactivity put kids in danger if they want to convict him. They also need to provide evidence that he had the right to care for the students.
Mr. Peterson has stated that if he had known the rounds were coming from an outside sniper, he would have entered the building to fight the assailant.
Should the Parkland school shooting officer go to prison?
Defense lawyers have stated that they will contend that their client does not meet the statutory description of “caregiver” in this situation. Usually, parents or daycare providers are prosecuted under the law for neglect.
Mr. Peterson is charged with misdemeanor perjury for allegedly lying to investigators about his conduct that day while under oath.
The prosecution will face a “uphill battle” to demonstrate that Mr. Peterson had the legal obligation to look after the children in this case, according to David Weinstein, a Miami criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, who spoke to the BBC.
According to the statute, a person is not automatically considered to be a caretaker of these children just because his work description includes the phrase “school resource officer,” according to Mr. Weinstein.
“Traditional law enforcement does not have that kind of legal responsibility over a child.”
‘My son’s killer gets to live,’ reads the media caption. That is not fair.
Following the incident, Mr. Peterson, who had served as a deputy for 32 years, retired. He was charged in June 2019.
He could potentially lose his $104,000 (£83,500) yearly pension if found guilty.
According to an inquiry by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Mr. Peterson “did absolutely nothing to mitigate” the shooting.
Their investigation revealed that the shooter shot around 140 times, 75 of which were after Mr. Peterson arrived on the scene.
He was called a coward by critics, notably the then-President Donald Trump.
The attacker admitted to the murders and was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole last year.