Scot Peterson, school resource officer criticized for his response during the Parkland shooting, faces felony charges

Article Image

Former Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson is facing 11 charges stemming from the 2018 mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.

Posted: Jun 4, 2019 11:10 PM
Updated: Jun 4, 2019 11:10 PM

Former Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson -- who was criticized for how he responded when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School -- has been charged with 11 counts, including felony child neglect charges, authorities said.

Peterson retired after the February 2018 massacre at the Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead, and is collecting a pension.

He was fired Tuesday at a disciplinary hearing by new Sheriff Gregory Tony. The firing could affect Peterson's retirement pay, Tony said.

Peterson, who was a school resource officer, is facing charges of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury in connection with the deadly shooting, according to a release from the State Attorney's Office.

He was criticized for staying outside

Days after the February 14 massacre, footage surfaced of Peterson taking position near the 700 and 800 buildings at Stoneman Douglas High School, a spot he stayed at for more than 45 minutes. He was criticized by the Sheriff Scott Israel and others for not going in the nearby 1200 building when he heard gunshots.

In an arrest warrant affidavit, authorities say the gunman killed five students and one teacher and wounded three students and one teacher after Peterson arrived at the 1200 building, then moved 75 feet to another position.

It also says the gunman fired approximately 75 times after Peterson arrived.

The warrant says Peterson made a knowingly false statement to investigators by saying he only heard two or three shots when he arrived at the building.

His attorney thinks charges are political retribution

Peterson's attorney, Joseph A. DiRuzzo III, said the charges appear to be "a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution against Mr. Peterson."

He said Peterson cannot be prosecuted as a caregiver since he was acting as a law enforcement officer in an official capacity.

"We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law," he said.

DiRuzzo has said in the past that it's a "gross over-simplification" to characterize Peterson's actions as cowardly, and said Peterson believed the gunshots were coming from outside the building.

With more than 30 years on the job, Peterson's personnel file shows an exemplary record -- with two nominations for School Resource Deputy of the year.

He is in jail

Peterson was booked into Broward County Jail, authorities said, and his bail will be set at $102,000.

Six of the child neglect charges he faces are second-degree felonies, prosecutors added. A conviction on one of those charges means he could be sentenced to 15 years in prison. Because one victim was not severely injured, a seventh neglect charge is a third-degree felony (up to five years).

The three charges of culpable negligence are second-degree misdemeanors, while the perjury charge is a first-degree misdemeanor.

He should 'rot in hell,' parent says

The father of a girl who was killed applauded the charges.

"Peterson failed in his duty to protect lives that day, standing behind a cement pillar for 48 minutes while students and teachers were slaughtered," Alaina Petty's father, Ryan, said. "After a year of in-depth investigation, I am pleased that the (state authorities) have brought formal charges against former deputy Scot Peterson."

The father of Jaime Guttenberg said Peterson could have saved lives.

"I have no comment except to say rot in hell, Scot Peterson," Fred Guttenberg said. "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."

His charges concern police union

The president of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, Jeff Bell, told CNN by email that he had several concerns about Peterson's charges, particularly the neglect and negligence charges.

"In order for there to be neglect, the individual must be a 'care taker' of the individual," Bell wrote. "Does that mean that every police officer from now on that works a detail where children are present are now subjected to child neglect charges if something happens?"

He said the union does not consider Peterson a coward.

Also fired was Sgt. Brian Miller, a supervisor on the day of the shooting, the sheriff's office said. Bell said the union will fight Miller's dismissal.

The gunman, a former student, is charged with 17 counts of first-degree premeditated murder and 17 counts of first-degree attempted murder.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34211

Reported Deaths: 2125
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9761576
Lake3573186
Allen160069
Cass15877
St. Joseph126634
Elkhart126228
Hendricks116671
Hamilton115493
Johnson1097108
Madison58659
Porter53428
Bartholomew50834
Clark49741
LaPorte43023
Howard40428
Tippecanoe3933
Delaware38536
Jackson3821
Shelby37122
Hancock33127
Floyd31839
Boone31635
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2662
Montgomery23817
White2338
Noble22821
Clinton2271
Decatur22431
Grant21022
Dubois1993
Harrison19422
Henry17211
Greene16924
Vigo1688
Dearborn16821
Monroe16712
Warrick16628
Lawrence15924
Miami1401
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Kosciusko1271
Orange12622
Scott1193
Franklin1108
Ripley1086
Marshall1021
Carroll932
Daviess8516
Steuben832
Wayne785
Fayette777
Newton7710
Wabash772
LaGrange762
Jasper661
Washington521
Clay511
Jay500
Fulton491
Randolph473
Rush462
Pulaski460
Jefferson451
Whitley413
Starke393
DeKalb371
Sullivan351
Owen341
Brown331
Perry320
Wells310
Benton300
Knox280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Blackford252
Crawford240
Fountain212
Switzerland200
Spencer201
Parke170
Adams171
Posey160
Gibson152
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0167
West Lafayette
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 63°
Kokomo
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 58°
Rensselaer
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 59°
Fowler
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 59°
Williamsport
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 63°
Crawfordsville
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 62°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 64°
Delphi
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 59°
Monticello
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 59°
Logansport
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 57°
Cooler, less humid weather continues Sunday
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events