Fort Lauderdale, FL – The former Broward deputy who hid outside instead of engaging the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was arrested on Tuesday afternoon for failure to protect children that day.
Retired Broward Deputy Scot Peterson was charged with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury, WPLG reported.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said the arrest came after 15-months of investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Broward State’s Attorney’s Office, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
FDLE Spokeswoman Jessica Cary said the investigation determined that then-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 was taken into custody on June 4 following an administrative discipline hearing at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz said six of the seven child neglect charges were second-degree felonies, but the seventh count was a third-degree felony because the child was not badly injured, WPLG reported.
Satz said both the perjury and culpable negligence charges were first- and second-degree misdemeanors.
Peterson was given a $102,000 bond, with conditions that required him to wear a GPS monitor, surrender his passport, and give up his firearms, according to WPLG.
The former deputy is facing up to 97 years in prison if he is convicted of all the charges, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Peterson resigned from the Broward Sheriff’s Office shortly after the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre at the Parkland high school left 17 students and staff dead, and another 17 wounded.
Initially, then-Broward Sheriff Scott Israel heralded the SRO for his bravery after a former student went on a shooting spree inside a classroom building.
But then surveillance video from the school and recordings of police radio transmissions revealed that the man charged with protecting the students had hidden outside the building until long after the shooting stopped.
Instead of going into the building to confront the gunman, Sheriff Israel said that surveillance video and witness interviews showed that Deputy Peterson took up a position outside the door to the freshman building that was under attack, but never went inside, WPXI reported.
Eight days after the shootings, Sheriff Israel announced that he had suspended Deputy Peterson and the school resource officer resigned shortly thereafter.
Peterson was uncooperative with the FDLE investigation and failed to appear before the investigating commission when he was subpoenaed.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission’s report concluded that there was “overwhelming evidence that Deputy Peterson knew that the gunshots were coming from within or within the immediate area of Building 12” but found no evidence to support his assertion that he “attempted to investigate the source of the gunshots.”
Peterson submitted a 14-page rebuttal with his side of the story to the investigating commission in May that the commission’s chairman, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, called “a fairy tale.”
The disgraced deputy claimed he had been made a “personal and political scapegoat” by former Sheriff Israel, WFOR reported.
But families of victims think that Peterson hasn’t suffered nearly enough and hope he feels the full weight of the law.
"Certainly not disappointed and not surprised. He needs to rot," said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered at Parkland. "He has continued to abuse the families by continuing to lie about how he failed my child and 16 others. He deserves to rot. He is responsible in large part for my why my daughter is gone and I have no sympathy for him, I’m glad he’s been arrested."
In February, a state lawmaker proposed legislation that would strip Peterson of his $104, 424 annual pension.