FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Former Broward Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson was arrested Tuesday after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement following the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Peterson, 56, was arrested in Broward County on charges of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. The arrest comes after a 15 month investigation into the law enforcement response to the shooting in Parkland.
Peterson was the school resource officer seen on surveillance video, who was widely criticized for not immediately entering the school after shots rang out on campus. According to the FDLE release, the investigation showed Peterson refused to investigate the source of the gunshots and retreated during the active shooting.
The investigation also said Peterson directed law-enforcement officers responding to the scene to remain 500 feet away from the building where the shooting took place.
“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,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
“I was pleased the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office conducted a thorough investigation that yielded the arrest of Scot Peterson," said Sheriff Gregory Tony. "All the facts related to Mr. Peterson’s failure to act during the MSD massacre clearly warranted both termination of employment and criminal charges. It’s never too late for accountability and justice.”
Peterson was arrested at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters and booked into the Broward County Main Jail. The Broward State Attorney’s Office, 17th Judicial Circuit will prosecute the case. Attorney General Ashley Moody's office released a statement reading:
“The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting was a horrible tragedy and it is devastating to think that the loss of innocent lives of students and faculty could have been prevented. As a mother, I cannot imagine the heartbreak and pain the families of the victims and the whole Parkland community have felt every day since February 14, 2018. I want to thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Broward State Attorney's Office for investigating this tragedy and holding Scot Peterson responsible for his inaction.”
Peterson's bail was set at $102,000. State Attorney Mike Satz said Peterson's charges carry a combined prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
As a result of the investigation, the sheriff also announced the termination of Sgt. Brian Miller, who the FDLE determined also neglected his duties at MSD High School.
State officials were quick to praise the criminal charges against Peterson, with state Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz suggesting the state should go further and “strip him of his 10k a month pension.”
“There isn’t enough justice or laws or accomplishment that can ever account for what happened at #MSD in #Parkland, but I’ll take this one,” Moskowitz, a former Democratic House member from nearby Coral Springs, tweeted after the arrest was announced.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed in the shooting, tweeted: “I have no comment except to say rot in hell Scott Petersen. You could have saved some of the 17. You could have saved my daughter. You did not and then you lied about it and you deserve the misery coming your way.”
During the 2019 legislative session, two bills that would have blocked retirement benefits for Peterson were considered, but they died in the committee process.
Nikolas Cruz, 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack. He has offered to plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.