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Former Deputy Acquitted of Charges He Failed to Act During Deadly Parkland School Shooting

Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson
Broward County Sheriff's Office
Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson

Fort Lauderdale - Thursday June 29, 2023: A Florida sheriff’s deputy was acquitted Thursday of felony child neglect and other charges for failing to act during the 2018 Parkland school massacre.

The jury had deliberated for 19 hours over four days. Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson wept as the verdicts were read.

Peterson was campus deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He had been charged with failing to confront shooter, Nikolas Cruz, who shot and killed 17 people on February 14 2018.

Prosecutors called a training supervisor who testified that Peterson did not follow protocols for confronting an active shooter, and they called students who said they knew for certain that the shots were coming from the 1200 building, which Peterson did not enter.

Peterson’s defense attorney called several deputies, students and teachers who testified they didn't think the shots were coming from the 1200 building. HIs defense also emphasized the failure of the sheriff’s radio system during the attack, which limited what Peterson heard from arriving deputies.

Peterson, who did not testify, has said that because of echoes, he could not pinpoint the shooters location.

The trial was the first ever in U.S. history for a a law enforcement officer accused of mis-conduct during an on-campus shooting.

Peterson's Actions on the day of the shooting

Security videos show that 36 seconds after Cruz’s attack began, Peterson exited his office about 100 yards (92 meters) from the 1200 building and jumped into a cart with two unarmed civilian security guards. They arrived at the building a minute later.

Peterson got out of the cart near the east doorway to the first-floor hallway. Cruz was at the hallway’s opposite end, firing his AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

Peterson, who was not wearing a bullet-resistant vest, didn’t open the door. Instead, he took cover 75 feet (23 meters) away in the alcove of a neighboring building, his gun still drawn. He stayed there for 40 minutes, long after the shooting ended and other police officers had stormed the building.

Peterson spent nearly three decades working at schools, including nine years at Stoneman Douglas. He retired shortly after the shooting and was then fired retroactively.