Scot Peterson put on the uniform and badge of a police officer. For most, that means to protect and serve. As a Broward County deputy serving at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School–or, as most of us know it, Parkland–he was expected to help protect the students.
Instead, he waited outside while a maniac gunned down the students.
To say he did not do well in the court of public opinion is an understatement. Parkland was a disaster on many levels and Peterson’s refusal to try and engage the killer didn’t exactly make anyone feel better about what happened.
Then he found himself facing criminal charges.
It made some degree of sense, but it was always going to be a long shot. On Thursday, the Parkland deputy was found not guilty.
A jury has acquitted on all counts the former school resource officer who stayed outside during the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – absolving him of wrongdoing in the rare trial of a law enforcement officer for his response to a mass shooting.
Scot Peterson, 60, took off his glasses and wept in court as the judge read the verdict, which found him not guilty of seven counts of felony child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
“I’ve got my life back,” Peterson, a former deputy for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters outside court, describing the years since the shooting as “an emotional roller coaster.”
State prosecutors accused Peterson of ignoring his training and doing nothing as 17 people, including 14 students, were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in what remains the deadliest US high school shooting ever. His attorney argued the then-deputy didn’t enter the school’s 1200 building, the site of the attack, because he couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from.
“The only person to blame was that monster,” Peterson said of the shooter. “It wasn’t any law enforcement, nobody on that scene, from BSO, Coral Springs. Everybody did the best they could. We did the best we could with the information we had, and God knows we wish we had more at that point.”
Well, clearly I disagree with that last part. Deputies waited while the shooting was ongoing despite standard procedure stating that officers on the scene should enter and engage the killer.
Like what we saw in Nashville.
The problem was always going to be that the courts have long determined that police have no duty to protect you. They never have and likely never will. What they have is a more overall duty to protect society itself, which means arresting criminals and such. A duty to protect you is a different matter entirely.
Where I have a significant problem with this, though, is when the government declares that everyone on a given property should be disarmed–as with Parkland–and therefore they cannot be in a position to protect themselves.
So they can’t protect themselves and the armed agent on the scene wouldn’t protect them.
Does that mean Peterson should have been found guilty? Based on what I know of the law, no. It was terrible and I won’t excuse his actions, but I’m not sure it should be considered criminal.
Now, this part is over for him. He can go back to whatever it was he was going to be doing.
It won’t be over for the kids or the families, but putting him in prison wouldn’t have done that, either.
What should happen is that people start to realize that if school resource officers aren’t required to protect the students and staff at these schools, then we need to empower the adults in these schools to be able to protect themselves.