CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Deputy acquitted of all charges for failing to act during deadly Parkland school shooting

Jun 29, 2023, 1:27 PM | Updated: 1:43 pm

parkland shooting...

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, left, and defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh stand as the jury enters the courtroom to be dismissed for the day after no verdict was announced in his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Peterson is accused of failing to confront the shooter who murdered 14 students and three staff members at a Parkland high school five years ago. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff’s deputy was acquitted Thursday of felony child neglect and other charges for failing to act during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, concluding the first trial in U.S. history of a law enforcement officer for conduct during an on-campus shooting.

Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson wept as the verdicts were read. The jury had deliberated for 19 hours over four days.

The campus deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Peterson had been charged with failing to confront shooter 17 dead.

He could have received nearly 100 years in prison, although a sentence even approaching that length would have been highly unlikely given the circumstances and his clean record. He also could have lost his $104,000 annual pension.

Prosecutors, during their two-week presentation, called to the witness stand students, teachers and training supervisor who testified Peterson did not follow protocols for confronting an active shooter.

Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, during his two-day presentation, called several deputies who arrived during the shooting and students and teachers who testified they did not think the shots were coming from the 1200 building. Peterson, who did not testify, has said that because of echoes, he could not pinpoint the shooters location.

Eiglarsh also emphasized the failure of the sheriff’s radio system during the attack, which limited what Peterson heard from arriving deputies.

Security videos show that 36 seconds after Cruz’s attack began, Peterson exited his office about 100 yards (92 meters) from the 1200 building and jumped into a cart with two unarmed civilian security guards. They arrived at the building a minute later.

Peterson got out of the cart near the east doorway to the first-floor hallway. Cruz was at the hallway’s opposite end, firing his AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

Peterson, who was not wearing a bullet-resistant vest, didn’t open the door. Instead, he took cover 75 feet (23 meters) away in the alcove of a neighboring building, his gun still drawn. He stayed there for 40 minutes, long after the shooting ended and other police officers had stormed the building.

Peterson spent nearly three decades working at schools, including nine years at Stoneman Douglas. He retired shortly after the shooting and was then fired retroactively.

Cruz’s jury could not unanimously agree he deserved the death penalty. The 24-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student was then sentenced to life in prison.

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Deputy acquitted of all charges for failing to act during deadly Parkland school shooting