By Lauren Rearick
In a press conference on Tuesday, June 4, Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced it intended to charge Scot Peterson, the on-duty school resource officer during the February 2019 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for his lack of response during the shooting.
Seventeen people, most of them students, were killed when a perpetrator opened fire at the Parkland, Florida, high school on February 14, 2019. After law enforcement reviewed surveillance video from the day of the attack, Peterson faced criticism for waiting to enter the building while the attack was underway, CNN reported.
As ABC News reported, the video shows Peterson, who was previously employed as a sheriff's deputy with the Broward County Police, approached the building where the shooting took place, but later walked away, and stood outside for 45 minutes. An arrest warrant affidavit, obtained by CNN, states that during the time Peterson stood outside, the perpetrator killed five people and wounded four others.
Over the course of 15 months, FDLE conducted an investigation into Peterson’s response, ABC News reported. After interviewing witnesses and watching surveillance footage, the department announced 11 criminal charges for Peterson, including seven counts of neglect of a child and three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury, a press release from FDLE notes; if convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison, CBS News reports. Peterson was placed in the Broward County jail with a bail of $102,000; if released, he can’t own a gun or passport, and he would have to wear a GPS monitoring device.
In a press release, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen criticized Peterson’s action during the shooting, saying he did “absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting.” He asserted that there was “no question that his inaction cost lives.” Data shows the fallacy that a “good guy with a gun” will be able to stop gun violence from happening is not rooted in any justifiable proof. In response to the attack, Parkland students lobbied for gun law reform in order to stop gun violence from happening altogether.
Joseph A. DiRuzzo III, an attorney for Peterson, told CNN he intended to defend his client against the charges. He challenged the notion that Peterson was considered a caregiver, noting that it’s legally defined 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,” he said in a statement.
Tony Montalto, the father of Gina Montalto, a 14-year-old student who died in the shooting, told ABC News he was “happy to see some accountability for this tragedy.” Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow Pollack was killed in the shooting, told CBS News, "[The arrest] is a step towards more accountability for letting my daughter get murdered.”
The perpetrator who killed 17 people and wounded 17 others is currently awaiting trial, NPR notes. He has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree premeditated murder and 17 counts of first-degree attempted murder.