FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Shortly after being fired by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, former deputy Scot Peterson was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for his actions during and after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Not long after taking command of the department, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony focused an internal investigation on seven deputies to determine whether their actions at MSD High School on February 14, 2018 complied with Broward Sheriff’s Office standards.READ MORE: Exclusive: Rescued By Service Dog When Roof Collapsed, Paraplegic Man Appeals For Help To Find Apartment He Can Afford
On Tuesday, Tony announced the termination of Peterson and Sergeant Brian Miller who were found to have neglected their duties.
“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,” Tony said in a statement. “I am committed to addressing deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”
Peterson’s arrest by the FDLE came as a result of a 15-month investigation into the actions of law enforcement following the shooting. He’s been charged with seven counts of neglect of a child and three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
“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,” said 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.”
When summarizing probable cause in the arrest warrant, it reads:
“The facts further established that Deputy Scot Peterson was aware that Nikolas Cruz was inside the 1200 Building at MSD while he was positioned between the 700 and 800 Buildings. Deputy Peterson, as a School Resource Officer, was assigned the duty and responsibility of protecting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and its occupants, including students of a minor age and therefore was responsible for the welfare and safety of the MSD students inside the 1200 Building during the time the active shooter was firing his weapon inside the building. Deputy Peterson knowingly and willingly failed to act pursuant to his law enforcement training and sworn duties which directed him to promptly address the active shooter (Cruz) within the 1200 building; instead retreating to a position of increased personal safety.
“During the time Deputy Peterson remained between the 700 and 800 Buildings; Cruz continued to actively shoot inside the 1200 Building and subsequently shot and killed one teacher and 5 students, four of the students being under the age of 18. In addition, Cruz shot and injured one adult teacher and three students under the age of 18 during the aforementioned timespan.”
As for why Peterson isn’t being charged with all 17 deaths and 17 additional injuries that resulted from the massacre, the warrant appears to explain that in this except:
“Per the BSO Crime Scene Unit documents, Cruz discharged his Smith and Wesson M&P-15 rifle approximately 140 times during the entire MSD Incident. A review of the aforementioned events determined that Cruz fired his weapon approximately 75 times between the time Deputy Peterson arrived at the southeast end of the 1200 Building, moved to his position of cover, and the time when he (Cruz) stopped shooting.”
Peterson’s charges are specifically related to the deaths and injuries of the ten students and teachers on the third floor of Building 12. This is when Peterson was outside the building but did not enter.
The seven counts of child neglect are for the minors that were killed and the three misdemeanors for negligence are for the adults that were killed.
“He stood there for some 45-48 minutes and did nothing,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen. “As a law enforcement officer, despite whatever policies and procedures agencies have, we swear an oath to protect and serve. I think this says he would be held accountable if you don’t do your job. You will be held accountable.”READ MORE: Study Takes A Look At The Mentality Of Scam Victims
Peterson’s arrest happening as the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Safety Committee met Tuesday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
“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,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter was killed in the shooting. “That led to the death of our loved ones. He needs to be held accountable for his lack of action that day.”
“For the life of me I cannot explain how anyone can stand behind a building for 48 minutes while innocent children and teachers are being slaughtered in this building,” said Ryan Petty, whose daughter was killed at MSD. “This was a long time coming.”
And reaction is mounting on social media. Fred Guttenberg whose daughter died on the third floor, posted the following on twitter:
“I have no comment except to say rot in hell Scott Petersen. You could have saved some of the 17. You could have saved my daughter. You did not and then you lied about it and you deserve the misery coming your way.”
During the investigation, FDLE agents interviewed 184 witnesses, reviewed countless hours of video surveillance, and wrote 212 investigative reports totaling over 800 hours on the case to determine the actions of law enforcement as they responded to the school shooting.
“I was pleased the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office conducted a thorough investigation that yielded the arrest of Scot Peterson. 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.
As a mother, I cannot imagine the heartbreak and pain the families of the victims and the whole Parkland community have felt every day since February 14, 2018. I want to thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Broward State Attorney’s Office for investigating this tragedy and holding Scot Peterson responsible for his inaction,” said state Attorney General Ashley Moody in a statement.
Peterson was the school resource officer at MSD High School during the school shooting. The investigation shows 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.
Peterson was arrested at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters and booked into the Broward County Main Jail. Peterson’s bond was set at #102,000. If he bonds out, he will have to wear a monitoring device, surrender his passport, and is banned from possessing any firearms while the case is pending.
Six of the seven child neglect charges are second-degree felonies and carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. The seventh child neglect charge is a third-degree felony (because the child was not severely injured) with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The perjury charge is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The three charges of culpable negligence are second-degree misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail.
Peterson’s defense attorney released a statement late Tuesday that read:
“To the South Florida Community and the American Public:
“The State of Florida has taken unprecedented action by charging Mr. Peterson for child neglect and culpable negligence. We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law. Specifically, Mr. Peterson cannot reasonably be prosecuted because he was not a “caregiver”, which is defined as “a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.”1 Indeed, the definition of “other person responsible for a child’s welfare” expressly excludes law enforcement officers acting in an official capacity.2 Further, Mr. Peterson was not criminally “negligent” in his actions as no police officer has ever been prosecuted for his/her actions in responding to an active shooter incident.”MORE NEWS: Man Who Suffered Severe Burns Reunites With Staff Who Helped Save His Life At Kendall Regional Medical Center
If convicted, the 11 charges technically carry a maximum potential punishment of 96 ½ years in state prison.