Military and Police

Former Parkland SRO Arrested, Charged with Neglect of Duty, Child Neglect, Perjury

“Its never too late for accountability and justice,” said Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony after former Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested today on several criminal charges encompassing neglect of duty, child neglect, and perjury.

The jailed former deputy is more commonly known as the “coward of Broward” for his inaction when a young gunman entered Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and, unimpeded by Peterson, gunned down a total of 17 students and school staff. The school resource officer at the time accused of having had a duty to act but did not, Peterson defended his stance and shortly thereafter retired before he could be terminated by then-Sheriff Scott Israel.

With professional responsibility in question and ensuing deflection after the Parkland massacre, Israel was removed by newly-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in January 2019, almost a full year since the school’s slaughter on February 14, 2018, becoming a modern-day Valentines’ Day massacre.

Post-shooting, Israel had been accused of poor leadership and abysmal police response, with Governor DeSantis saying, “I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave but suffice it to say the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.” That had direct implications to a BSO captain who reportedly failed to promptly take command and adequately address the situation (read: stop the threat). Instead, while on scene, sheriff’s office Captain Jan Jordan directed law enforcement officers on scene to form a perimeter instead of entering the building where the shooter was spraying bullets at students and staff. She subsequently resigned. Charges forthcoming for her too?

Almost sixteen months since the school bloodbath, Peterson is behind bars. According to South Florida media outlets, following Peterson’s arrest, Gina Hoyer, whose 14-year-old son Luke perished in the shooting, made the following statement: “My heart is just beating because we’re over a year here and this is just now happening. This is long overdue.”

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was also murdered that day, added her remarks regarding Peterson: “He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones. It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat and he froze and he did nothing.”

According to a Sun-Sentinel report, yet another slain student’s parent, Fred Guttenberg, added the following analysis: “On February 14, my daughter died on the third floor of MSD running down the hallway from an active shooter. One more second, and she makes it to the stairwell. She needed one more second. If anyone wants to know what failure means, and lack of response, my daughter would have lived if someone could have just given her one more second.” The implicit nature in Mr. Guttenberg’s statement —and who he holds accountable— is unmistakable.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Broward State Attorney’s Office coopted the year-plus investigation and formally charged/arrested Peterson this afternoon. Per a statement from FDLE and Broward state attorneys involved in the case, their investigation surrounding what went wrong in Parkland and Peterson’s role as the primarily responsible law enforcer there entailed over 800 hours of investigative effort which included interviews of 184 witnesses and scouring many hours of surveillance footage.

Peterson remains in Broward County Main Jail, the very jail he entered myriad times throughout his career, only on the wrong side of the wall today.

Placing punctuation to an unquestionably horrific day and this eventual outcome, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen stated, “The FDLE investigation shows former Deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers, and staff and injured 17 others. There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”

If convicted, Peterson is confronting a potential 97 years incarceration. He is presently remanded with a $102,000 bond looming.

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Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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