UNITED STATES NEWS

Prosecutor: Deputy fled during Parkland school massacre, putting own life ahead of students’

Jun 25, 2023, 10:42 PM | Updated: Jun 26, 2023, 11:31 am

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School School Resource Officer Scot Peterson sits at the defen...

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School School Resource Officer Scot Peterson sits at the defense table during his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Friday, June 23, 2023. Broward County prosecutors charged Peterson, a former Broward Sheriff's Office deputy, with criminal charges for failing to enter the 1200 Building at the school and confront the shooter as he perpetuated the Valentine's Day 2018 Massacre that left 17 dead and 17 injured. (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 fled to safety during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, putting his own life ahead of the children he was charged with protecting and giving the gunman time to fatally shoot several victims, prosecutors told jurors Monday during closing arguments of his trial on child neglect charges.

Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson could have located and stopped Nikolas Cruz as he carried out his Feb. 14, 2018, attack inside the three-story 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but instead of opening a door, looking in a window or seeking information from fleeing students, he chose to take shelter next to an adjoining building, prosecutor Kristen Gomes told the jury. That prevented him from confronting Cruz before he reached the third floor, where six of Cruz’s 17 killings were committed.

“Choose to go in or choose to run? Scot Peterson chose to run,” Gomes said. “When the defendant ran, he left behind an unrestricted killer who spent the next four minutes and 15 seconds wandering the halls at his leisure. Because when Scot Peterson ran, he left them in a building with a predator unchecked.”

But Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, argued that Peterson is being made a “sacrificial lamb” for failures by elected officials and administrators. He said the evidence proves Peterson’s insistence that the gunshots’ echoes prevented him from pinpointing Cruz’s location is the truth and Peterson did everything he could under the circumstances. Criticizing his actions now is “Monday morning quarterbacking” using facts that were unknown to Peterson in real time.

He said the only person responsible for what happened that day is “that monster” Cruz. He said two dozen students, teachers and others testified that they also could not pinpoint where the shots were coming from — some of them from inside the building where the shooting happened.

“This whole hearing-based prosecution is flawed and offensive,” Eiglarsh said. He said Peterson acted heroically during the shooting, staying put to transmit whatever information he had and would have charged into the building if he knew where the shooter was. But if he did that or went elsewhere without solid information and the shooter then killed others where Peterson had left, he would have been prosecuted for that.

“He was damned no matter what,” Eiglarsh said.

Peterson, 60, is being tried for felony child neglect and other charges for the deaths and injuries on the third floor. He is not charged in connection with the deaths of 11 people killed on the first floor before he reached the building. It is the first time a U.S. law enforcement officer has been tried in connection with a school shooting.

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.

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 did not testify.

Eiglarsh has also emphasized the failure of the sheriff’s radio system during the attack, which limited what Peterson heard from arriving deputies. Gomes said the radio system worked fine during the critical first minutes of the attack, with Peterson being the one with the best information as he was within feet of the building.

The jury will also have to decide whether Peterson was a “caregiver” to the juvenile students who died and were wounded on the third floor — a legal requirement for him to be convicted of child neglect. Florida law defines a caregiver as “a parent, adult household member or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.” Caregivers are guilty of felony neglect if they fail to make a “reasonable effort” to protect children or don’t provide necessary care.

Gomes said every parent who dropped their child off that morning expected Peterson to protect the students. Eiglarsh said Peterson was not responsible for feeding or clothing the students, so he was not their caregiver.

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, did not 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 faces up to nearly 100 years in prison if convicted, although because of his clean record a sentence anywhere near that length is highly unlikely. He could also lose his $104,000 annual pension. He had spent nearly three decades working at schools, including nine years at Stoneman Douglas. He retired shortly after the shooting and was then fired retroactively.

then sentenced to life in prison.

United States News

Associated Press

Group of homeless people sues Portland, Oregon, over new daytime camping ban

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A group of homeless people in Portland, Oregon, filed a class action lawsuit on Friday challenging new restrictions the city placed on daytime camping in an attempt to address safety issues stemming from a crisis of people living on the streets. The lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleges the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y.; Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate. __ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Preempted by coverage of golf’s Ryder Cup. __ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

An ex-investigative journalist is sentenced to 6 years in a child sexual abuse materials case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former investigative journalist for ABC News was sentenced Friday to six years in federal prison for possessing and transporting child sexual abuse images. James Gordon Meek, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty in July, admitting in a plea agreement that he used an iPhone to exchange illicit materials during a chat […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Dad who won appeal in college admissions bribery case gets 6 months home confinement for tax offense

BOSTON (AP) — A former Staples Inc. executive whose fraud and bribery convictions in the sprawling college admissions cheating scandal were thrown out by an appeals court was sentenced on Friday to six months of home confinement for a tax offense. John Wilson, 64, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, was sentenced in Boston’s federal appeals court months […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Court orders Subway franchise owners to pay workers nearly $1M – and to sell or close their stores

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal court ordered the owners of 14 Subway locations north of San Francisco to pay employees nearly $1 million in damages and back pay — and also to sell or shut their businesses, with any sale proceeds going to the Department of Labor. Federal investigators said franchise owners John and […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

2 Indianapolis officers indicted for shooting Black man who was sleeping in his car, prosecutor says

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers for shooting a Black man who was sleeping in a car parked outside his grandmother’s house, a prosecutor said Friday. Officers Carl Chandler and Alexander Gregory were indicted on battery and criminal recklessness charges in connection with the Dec. 31 predawn […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

Sanderson Ford...

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford congratulates D-backs’ on drive to great first half of 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a red-hot first half of the major league season, and Sanderson Ford wants to send its congratulations to the ballclub.

Prosecutor: Deputy fled during Parkland school massacre, putting own life ahead of students’