AP

Florida deputy charged for inaction during Parkland shooting

Jun 5, 2019, 5:29 AM

This undated photo provided by the Broward County, Fla., Sheriff's Office shows Scot Peterson, a former Florida deputy who stood outside instead of confronting the gunman during last year's Parkland school massacre was arrested Tuesday, June 4, 2019, on 11 criminal charges related to his inaction. (Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)

(Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)

MIAMI (AP) — The Florida deputy who knew a gunman was loose at the Parkland high school but refused to go inside to confront the assailant was arrested Tuesday on 11 criminal charges related to his inaction during the massacre that killed 17 people.

Scot Peterson was on duty as the resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the February 2018 shooting but never entered the building while bullets were flying. He was charged with child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury — allegations that carry a maximum prison sentence of nearly 100 years.

Peterson was seen on surveillance video rushing with two staff members toward the building where the shooting happened. When they arrived, he pulled his weapon and went forward but then retreated and took up a position outside, where he stood with his gun drawn.

The charges follow a 14-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which conducted interviews with 184 witnesses, reviewed hours of surveillance videos and compiled 212 investigative reports, the agency said.

Peterson “did absolutely nothing to mitigate” the 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.”

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed, said she was surprised to hear of Peterson’s arrest. She recalled sending a text to her daughter when she heard there was shooting.

“I told her to hide, that help was on the way. Well, Peterson was that help, but he froze, and he failed us all that day,” Alhadeff said. “He was supposedly the good guy with the gun who was supposed to go in and meet the threat, and he let us all down.”

Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina Montalto, also 14, died in the attack, said families wanted justice to be done.

“We are happy to see some accountability for this tragedy,” said Montalto, president of the Stand With Parkland victim families’ group.

Peterson, 56, was jailed on $102,000 bail. If released, he will be required to wear a GPS monitor and surrender his passport and will be prohibited from possessing a gun, the prosecutor said.

His lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo III, said in a statement that Peterson is merely a scapegoat. He called the charges “a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution.”

“We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law,” he said, arguing that Peterson was not a caregiver, which he said the law defines as a parent, adult household member or other person responsible for a child’s welfare. “The definition of ‘other person responsible for a child’s welfare’ expressly excludes law enforcement officers acting in an official capacity.”

It was not immediately clear when Peterson would make his initial court appearance. That typically occurs the day after an arrest.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican who was Florida governor at the time of the shooting, initiated the law enforcement probe and said Tuesday in a statement that he was glad the investigation was finished.

“Now it’s time for justice to be served,” Scott said.

After the shooting, Peterson took retirement rather than accept a suspension.

He has now been formally fired, according to Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony. Another deputy, former Sgt. Brian Miller, was also fired, although he faces no criminal charges.

“It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” Tony said.

David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said key to the case will be the culpable negligence charge, which essentially means an “utter disregard for the safety of others.”

The perjury charge stems from a statement Peterson gave under oath to investigators contending that he did not hear any shots fired after taking up his position outside the school. Investigators determined through video, witnesses and other evidence that was not true.

The arrest is the latest fallout from investigations into the shooting.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended then-Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for “neglect of duty and incompetence” over the department’s actions that day. Israel is appealing that decision to the state Senate and said he intends to run again next year.

The case also spawned a state commission that issued a 458-page report detailing many errors before and during the shooting, including Broward deputies who stayed outside the school building and the policies that led to that, such as Israel’s decision to change guidelines to say that deputies “may” confront an active shooter rather than “shall” do so.

The commission also recommended voluntary arming of teachers, which state lawmakers approved this year.

The chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, said in an interview that the charges against Peterson were “absolutely warranted.”

Peterson “is a coward, a failure and a criminal,” Gualtieri said. “There is no doubt in my mind that because he didn’t act, people were killed.”

Nikolas Cruz , 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of the first-degree murder charges filed in the attack. His lawyers have said Cruz would plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.

Cruz is expected to go on trial in early 2020.

___

Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

A pail rests next to caution tape on a beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2...

Associated Press

Young girl killed when a hole she dug in the sand collapsed on a Florida beach, authorities said

A young girl died Tuesday when a deep hole she was digging collapsed on her at a south Florida beach, authorities said.

24 hours ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018....

MEAD GRUVER Associated Press

A Colorado man is dead after a pet Gila monster bite

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death if the creature's venom was the cause.

1 day ago

Visitors stand at the closed gates leading to the Eiffel Tower, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 in Paris....

OLEG CETINIC Associated Press

Eiffel Tower operator warns the landmark is closed as strike turns visitors away for a second day

A strike at the Eiffel Tower over poor financial management turned away visitors on Tuesday for the second consecutive day.

1 day ago

capitol one building...

KEN SWEET AP Business Writer

Capital One to buy Discover for $35 billion in deal that combines major US credit card companies

Capital One Financial is buying Discover Financial Services for $35 billion, in a deal that would bring together two of the nation's biggest lenders and credit card issuers.

2 days ago

An open-air double decker sightseeing bus stops on the slopes of Table Mountain, overlooking the ci...

GERALD IMRAY Associated Press

A ship carrying 19,000 cattle caused a big stink in the South African city of Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — What stinks? Authorities in Cape Town launched an investigation Monday after a foul stench swept over the South African city. City officials inspected sewage facilities for leaks, and an environmental health team was activated before the source of the smell was discovered: a ship docked in the harbor carrying […]

2 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump holds gold Trump sneakers at Sneake...

MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press

Here’s a look inside Donald Trump’s $355 million civil fraud verdict as an appeals fight looms

On the witness stand last year, Donald Trump proclaimed: "I have a lot of cash." After Friday's eye-popping penalty in his New York civil fraud trial, he's going to need it.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Florida deputy charged for inaction during Parkland shooting