Fort Lauderdale, FL – A Broward Circuit Court Judge has refused to dismiss charges against the former Broward deputy who hid outside instead of engaging the gunman who murdered 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018.
Retired Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, 58, was charged with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury for failing to protect children that day, WPLG reported.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Spokeswoman Jessica Cary said the investigation determined that then-school resource Deputy Peterson failed to investigate the origin of the gunshots, hid while the gunman was still shooting, and told arriving first responders to stay 500 feet away from the building where the massacre was happening.
Peterson’s attorney argued that law enforcement officers do not meet the legal definition of caregivers and that the child negligence charges against him are therefore moot, the Associated Press reported.
But prosecutors noted Peterson was employed as a school resource deputy at the time of the massacre, and argued his position was inherently different from other law enforcement assignment details.
They said school resource officers should be considered caregivers, the Associated Press reported.
Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein refused to dismiss the charges against Peterson and issued a ruling Thursday that will leave it up to a jury to decide whether or not school resource officers should be considered caregivers.
“While we are extremely disappointed with the judge’s decision and plan to appeal, we take solace knowing that the truth will come out at trial,” the former deputy’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, told CNN. “My client is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing, and did all he could to save lives during Nikolas Cruz’s abhorrent massacre.”
Eiglarsh said the public has been “fed a false narrative” about Peterson.
“We have overwhelming evidence proving that the numerous actions that my client took during the attack was done to save lives,” he added.
An emotional Peterson spoke to the media on Wednesday after the first court session, CNN reported.
“I’ll never forget that day,” he told reporters. “Not only kids died. I had friends that died. Never for a second would I sit there and allow anyone to die knowing that animal was up in that building. Never.”