FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Broward State Attorney Mike Satz is responding to the decision to charge former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Resource Officer Scot Peterson with child neglect and culpable negligence for failure to confront the school shooter.
Satz released a statement Friday following multiple inquiries regarding the decision to pursue criminal charges and what impact it has on first responders.
Satz says the Parkland school shooting case is unique and would generally not apply to law enforcement officers or other first responders.
“The circumstances of this case are very fact-specific and highly unlikely to be repeated,” says Satz’ statement. “Culpable negligence and child neglect charges would not apply generally to police officers or other first responders who – unlike school resource officers – do not have a specific duty to protect the students and staff of a school.”
Satz says the charges apply specifically to Peterson’s inaction during the February 2018 shooting that left 17 dead and 17 others injured. Surveillance video from the school shows Peterson standing outside the school building where the gunman was firing.
In court papers, prosecutors said five people were killed and four others wounded after Peterson took up his position, gun drawn, but did not go inside.
“Any concern that police officers or other first responders would be generally held liable is simply not supported by these facts. Under Florida law, a school resource officer is a caregiver and can be held criminally liable if that individual makes “no reasonable effort” to protect a child from harm. Florida Statute 827.03 specifically states that child neglect includes: “A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.” And Florida Statute 827.01 defines a caregiver as “a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare,” says Satz.
Peterson is charged with child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. If convicted, he faces a potential maximum prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo, said the charges should be dismissed because Peterson did not legally have a duty to care for the students, as would be the case for someone dealing directly with children, such as a nurse or day care staffer.
The negligence charge brought by prosecutors accuses Peterson of “reckless indifference” or “careless disregard” for others. Child neglect involves a failure to protect someone under 18 from “abuse, neglect or exploitation.”
Some legal experts have said they aren’t so sure about the charges as well suggesting prosecutors may have overreached.