After more than a year of investigation, the Coward of Broward County, former Deputy Scot Peterson, was arrested yesterday on charges of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. Peterson could serve up to 97 years in prison if convicted on all charges; he remains in jail in lieu of a $102,000 bond.
Peterson resigned shortly after the mass shooting that left 17 dead a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, collecting a pension of $8,702 a month despite having failed in his duties on the most important day of his career.
“He should rot, that’s how I feel,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was on the third floor when she died. “My daughter was one of the last to be shot. My daughter absolutely could have been saved by him and she wasn’t.”
The charges against Peterson focus on the students who were killed near the conclusion of the shooter's rampage on the third floor of the 1200 building. The consensus of those who have investigated the case is that no law enforcement officer—including Peterson—could have responded in time to stop the shooter [As a matter of policy, Restricted Arms does not name perpetrators of mass shootings in order to deprive them of the notoriety they crave.] on the first floor.
By the time the shooter made it to the third floor, Peterson could be seen on security cameras hiding outside the building, instead of charging in to confront the shooter.
While there was little time for anyone to intervene before 11 were murdered on the first floor at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, the fate of the people on the third floor is in question.
Dual investigations are looking at this and other critical factors, but a review of reports, timelines, audio and video recordings shows how a number of circumstances influenced the outcome that day.
Every second counted. If Scot Peterson, the Broward sheriff’s deputy assigned to protect the Parkland school, had charged into the 1200 building and bounded up three flights of stairs within a minute, he might have headed off the shooter and cut short his deadly rampage.
Various officials slammed the response by the first Broward County sheriff's deputies on the scene, including Peterson.
The investigation showed Peterson refused to investigate where the gunshots were coming from, retreated during the gunfire as victims were being shot, did not move from his hiding place for 48 minutes and directed other law enforcement who arrived on the scene to remain 500 feet away from the building, FDLE spokeswoman Jessica Cary said in an emailed statement.
“There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
A state commission investigating the school shooting was highly critical of Peterson in its report earlier this year.
Bob Gualtieri, chairman of that commission, said Tuesday at a meeting in Sunrise, that Peterson’s refusal to testify before the commission last year even though he had been subpoenaed “speaks volumes.”
Also fired by the sheriff Tuesday for neglect of duty was Sgt. Brian Miller. He has not been charged.
He was the first supervisor on the scene, arriving in time to hear three or four shots.
Rather than rush in or take command, Miller was “an absolute, total failure,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a commission meeting last year.
Miller dilly-dallied while putting on his bulletproof vest and then hid behind his car without going on his radio for 10 minutes, according to the commission’s report.
Restricted Arms supports having armed school resource officers on school campuses of all levels, but it needs to be made clear that these are not cozy, do-nothing, ROAD-type (Retired On Active Duty) jobs. Restricted Arms also advocates for arming teachers who wish to undergo active shooter training. Especially on larger campuses, the more armed responders there are reduces the likelihood of more people getting killed.
Legal experts believe that, aside from the perjury charge, prosecutors may have a tough time convicting Peterson. Unfortunately that may be true, and generally we at Restricted Arms oppose the process being punishment, but we'll make an exception in the Coward of Broward County's case.