FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — The former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who is accused of waiting outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a lone gunman shot student after student, was arrested Tuesday on 11 charges stemming from the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting, according to Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz.
Former Deputy Scot Peterson was booked into the Broward County Jail and his bond was set at $102,000, the State Attorney’s Office said. See also Broward’s Top Prosecutor Won’t Seek Re-Election In 2020
The affidavit filed in support of the warrant for Peterson’s arrest states that the gunman fired his Smith and Wesson M&P-15 rifle 140 times during the massacre, including “approximately 75 times between the time Deputy Peterson arrived at the southeast end of the 1200 building, moved to his position of cover, and the time when he … stopped shooting.”
The shootings took place between 2:21 p.m. when the gunman entered the building and 2:28 p.m. when the gunman left, the document said.
The affidavit placed Peterson on the radio with a fellow deputy at 2:24:24. At that time, Peterson allegedly said, “We don’t have any description yet, we just hear shots, appears to be shots fired,” which appears to establish Peterson knew there was a gunman in the school for several minutes before the rampage ended.
Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was among those killed by the gunman, had this to say to Peterson on social media: “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.”
Lori Alhadeff, who now sits on the Broward School Board following the death of her daughter, Alyssa, told reporters that she wants to see Peterson put in jail.
“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,” she said.
Hunter Pollack lost his sister, Meadow, in the tragedy. He posted Peterson’s mugshot on social media and asked people to share it.
“He allowed 17 people to be murdered on his watch. He lied afterwards and had no remorse for his inaction,” Pollack said on Twitter.
The affidavit said police recovered five empty AR-15 magazines inside the building, including three on the first floor and two on the third floor.
Peterson abruptly retired following the incident when he was informed that he was being suspended without pay for his actions related to the horrific Valentine’s Day shooting in which 17 students and faculty members were killed. Another 17 people were wounded but survived.
Under the terms of his bond, Peterson was to be required to wear a GPS monitor, surrender his passport and abide by a ban on possessing any firearms while the case is pending, the State Attorney’s Office said.
If convicted of the 11 charges, Peterson could face a maximum sentence of more than 96 years in state prison.
In January, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission unanimously approved a 446-page report on the school shooting that concluded Peterson was “derelict in his duty” by not confronting the school shooter.
Video shows Peterson drawing his gun and taking cover outside the building. The report also was critical of other deputies who failed to enter the building during the shooting, but praised officers from the Coral Springs Police Department who quickly ran inside.
The arrest of Peterson follows a 14-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The 56-year-old Peterson was facing seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
“The investigation examined the actions of law enforcement during and following the Parkland school mass shooting,” the Broward County State Attorney’s Office said.
Peterson has insisted that he was no coward since the shooting. In a June 2018 interview with NBC News, Peterson said he would not hesitate to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School if he could relive the Valentine’s Day massacre that forever changed the Parkland community.
Peterson spoke to the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie in his first television interview after the tragedy.
“Would you acknowledge now that you know in this really important moment, you missed it,” Guthrie pressed Peterson.
“I have to. I live with that,” responded Peterson in the two-part interview.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony also announced Tuesday that he was terminating Peterson and another deputy who were found to have neglected their duties. The other deputy was identified as Sgt. Brian Miller.
“The deputy and sergeant were found to have neglected their duties at MSD High School,” explained a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. “They have been
terminated and will no longer be privileged to serve as law enforcement deputies for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”
Tony said Peterson was taken into custody following an administrative discipline hearing at BSO headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.
“We cannot fulfill our commitment to always protect the security and safety of our Broward County community without doing a thorough assessment of what went wrong that day,” Sheriff Tony said. “I am committed to addressing deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”
Now that Peterson has been officially terminated, the spokeswoman told Patch that the former deputy will no longer be entitled to a sick leave payout.
“If a future employer inquires why Peterson left BSO, we can say he was terminated,” the spokeswoman explained.
In an earlier statement through Fort Lauderdale Attorney Joseph A. DiRuzzo, III, Peterson maintained that his actions were “appropriate under the circumstances.”
“Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need. However, the allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue,” according to a statement released by DiRuzzo.
President Trump called out Peterson by name in the aftermath of the shooting, referring to him as a “coward” or someone who “didn’t react properly under pressure.”
“He didn’t go into the school because he didn’t want to go into the school,” the president said of Peterson. “He was tested and it wasn’t a good result.”
During the investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents interviewed 184 witnesses, reviewed countless hours of video surveillance, and wrote 212 investigative reports, totaling more than 800 hours of investigation to determine the actions of law enforcement.
Investigators examined training records indicating that Peterson attended a four-hour block of active shooter training in April 2016, less than two years before the Parkland massacre.
“During the training, deputies were instructed on what a single deputy response should entail by being advised that ‘If you are on scene or in the area and hear gunshots, you should access what you have and prepare to respond,'” the affidavit explained. “‘Remember every time you hear a gunshot in an active shooter incident, you have to believe that is another victim being killed.'”
The investigation included the cooperation and assistance of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Coral Springs Police Department and other agencies that responded to the school shooting, the State Attorney’s Office said.
Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly is prosecuting the case for the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
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