Scot Peterson was found not guilty for child abuse after he failed to stop a mass shooter in 2018 (Credit: Fox / AP)
The former sheriff’s deputy who failed to confront the mass shooter at a Parkland, Florida high school in 2018 was found not guilty of child abuse.
Scot Peterson, a former Broward County sheriff’s deputy, was serving as a school resource officer at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School when a mass shooter opened fire on students.
During the shooting, Peterson took cover for over 45 minutes as former student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and teachers, and left another 17 wounded.
In the immediate aftermath of what became the worst school shooting in United States history, Peterson’s actions were highly scrutinized and criticized.
‘He didn’t have the courage or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job. There’s no question about that,’ then-President Donald Trump said.
Eight days after the shooting, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel suspended Peterson without pay.
‘Scot Peterson was absolutely on campus for this entire event,’ the sheriff said, arguing that he should have done more to stop the killer.
In 2019, Peterson was charged with seven counts of felony child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
‘When Scot Peterson ran, he left children trapped inside of the building with a predator unchecked,’ Assistant State Attorney Kristen Gomes said during the prosecution’s closing arguments.
Peterson’s defense attorney argued that Peterson took cover because echoes from gunshots made it impossible to tell where the gunman was located..
‘Two dozen witnesses came in here one by one and told you they couldn’t tell from the sounds precisely what area we’re talking about,’ defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh said.
Eiglarsh also criticized the child abuse charges, arguing that in his role as a school resource officer Peterson was not considered ‘responsible for a child’s welfare.’
After a two week-long trial, Peterson was found not guilty on all counts. The jury deliberated for over 19 hours before delivering the verdict.
Peterson took his glasses off and sobbed in the courtroom as a jury foreman read the not guilty verdicts.
The former deputy, who voluntarily retired as criticism of his actions mounted, was embraced by family and supporters in the courtroom.
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