‘He should rot, that’s how I feel…’
(Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel) Scot Peterson, the school security officer branded a coward for his inaction during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been arrested for neglect of duty, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony announced Tuesday.
Peterson, 56, had been nationally heckled and vilified for failing to confront the former student who gunned down and killed 17 students and staff at the Parkland school on Feb. 14, 2018.
The criminal charges, all but the perjury count, stem from the killings and injuries that happened on the third floor of the freshman building.
While there was little time for anyone to intervene before 11 were murdered on the first floor at the high school, the fate of the people on the third floor has been in question.
A Sun Sentinel review of reports, timelines, audio and video recordings showed how a number of circumstances influenced the outcome that day.
Every second counted. If Peterson had charged into the 1200 building and bounded up three flights of stairs within a minute, he might have headed off the shooter and cut short his deadly rampage.
“He should rot, that’s how I feel,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the massacre. “My daughter was one of the last to be shot. My daughter absolutely could have been saved by him and she wasn’t … I’m pleased an effort is being made for justice here.”
Jaime Guttenberg was shot once in the spinal cord as she fled for her life.
“Had she had one more second she would have been saved,” Guttenberg said. “She was turning into the stairwell. I hope they make his life as miserable as possible.”
Also on the third floor was geography teacher and cross-country coach Scott Beigel.
“If Scot Peterson had done his job my son would be alive today,” said Linda Schulman. “One hundred percent had he done something the active shooter would not have made it to the third floor, had he done his job, instead of standing outside like a coward. Had he done his job we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Peterson has been booked into the Broward Main Jail on 11 criminal charges, including child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. He also was fired.
Sentiments from the other parents whose children were killed echoed one another in praising the decision to arrest and lamenting that it was about time.
“My heart is just beating because we’re over a year here and this is just now happening,” said Gena Hoyer, mother of 14-year-old Luke, who died in the shooting. “This is long overdue.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, 18, was killed. “Accountability is all I wanted, and now it looks like it’s happening.”
“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 that led to the death of our loved ones,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, 14, also died that day. “It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat and he froze and he did nothing.”
Peterson’s arrest comes after a 15-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Broward state attorney’s office.
“It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” Tony, the sheriff, said.
The investigation showed Peterson refused to investigate where the gunshots were coming from, retreated during the gunfire as victims were being shot, and directed other law enforcement who arrived on scene to remain 500 feet away from the building, FDLE spokeswoman Jessica Cary said in an emailed statement.
“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,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Also terminated was Sgt. Brian Miller.
“[Peterson and Miller] were found to have neglected their duties at MSD High School,” Tony said in an emailed statement.
Peterson was arrested Tuesday afternoon after an administrative discipline hearing at the sheriff’s office headquarters on Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.
If convicted as charged, Peterson could face a maximum of nearly 97 years in state prison. His bond has been set at $102,000.
“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,” Tony said. “I am committed to address deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”
Peterson is facing seven felony counts of child neglect, three misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence and one misdemeanor count of perjury, according to the Broward state attorney’s office.
The investigation included 184 witness interviews, review of countless hours of video surveillance and resulted in 212 investigative reports and more than 800 hours of investigation, Cary said.
Sen. Rick Scott hailed his directive that called for FDLE to “investigate the failures in Broward County last year.”
“Had this individual done his job, lives would have been saved,” Scott said. “Actions (or inaction) have consequences. We need more accountability, and that includes at the FBI, which has yet to show me a single example of how they’ve improved their processes following the failures in the lead-up to the Parkland shooting.”
(Staff writers Megan O’Matz, Rafael Olmeda and Lisa Huriash contributed to this report.)
(c)2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.