Former Florida sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was arrested and charged with child neglect for failing to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the 2018 mass shooting.
Peterson, a former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy, was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Tuesday for his role in the shooting, which left 17 dead and 17 others injured.
Peterson was charged with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury, WLRN reported.
Peterson responded to the shooting within minutes but never went inside the building despite being armed and wearing a bulletproof vest. According to his arrest affidavit, Peterson stayed outside in a “position of increased personal safety” for more than 45 minutes, even after other officers entered the building.
“The FDLE investigation shows former Deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting,” 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.”
Peterson is being held on a $102,000 bond. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 96.5 years in prison.
Peterson's attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, said the charges were meant to “scapegoat” the former deputy.
"The State’s actions appear to be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution against Mr. Peterson as no other individual employed at the Broward Sherriff’s Office or Marjorie [sic] Stoneman Douglas High School has been criminally charged," DiRuzzo said in a statement.
Parents celebrate arrest:
"I never thought that he would be charged, so I'm extremely happy," said Max Shachter, who lost his son Alex in the shooting. "I know that he could have gone in that building. He couldn't have saved my little boy, my Alex was already gone by the time he arrived, but I know that if he had gone in, he could have saved those six people that died on the third floor and the four kids that were shot and injured.”
Peterson has been named in dozens of lawsuits filed by the families of the victims.
The lawsuits allege that Peterson "wantonly and willfully disregarded policies and procedures" by not entering the building — "instead, waiting outside the school for an inordinate amount of time as the shots rang out inside."
Peterson finally fired:
Peterson was formally fired by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, along with Sergeant Brian Miller. Both were found to have “neglected their duties,” WLRN reported, but only Peterson was arrested.
Investigators found that Miller responded to the shots but instead of taking command went to put on his bulletproof vest and hid behind his car.
“We cannot fulfill our commitment to always protect the security and safety of our Broward County community without doing a thorough assessment of what went wrong that day,” Sheriff Gregory Tony said. “I am committed to addressing deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”