Monday 26 August 2019

Parkland school shooting: US police officer arrested after he failed to confront gunman

"He was supposedly the good guy with the gun who was supposed to go in and meet the threat, and he let us all down," says mother of slain teen.

Scot Peterson, a former Florida deputy who stood outside instead of confronting the gunman during last year's Parkland school massacre
Scot Peterson, a former Florida deputy who stood outside instead of confronting the gunman during last year's Parkland school massacre
FILE PHOTO: Police patrol the area outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Zachary Fagenson/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Bouquets are placed at a memorial on campus on the one year anniversary of the shooting which claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
Scot Peterson, who was assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the February 14, 2018 shooting, is seen in this still image captured from the school surveillance video

Curt Anderson and Terry Spencer

Prosecutors say the Florida deputy who failed to confront a gunman during last year's Parkland massacre has been arrested on 11 charges.

State Attorney Mike Satz announced that 56-year-old Scot Peterson faces child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury charges.

The charges carry a combined prison sentence of nearly 100 years, he added.

Peterson, then a Broward County deputy, was on duty during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but never went inside.

He was seen on surveillance video rushing with two staff members toward the building where the shooting happened.

When they arrived, he pulled his weapon and went forward but then retreated and took up a position outside, where he stood with his gun drawn.

Peterson "did absolutely nothing to mitigate" the shooting, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement.

"There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives."

Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed, said she was surprised to hear of Peterson's arrest.

She recalled sending a text to her daughter when she heard there was shooting.

"I told her to hide, that help was on the way. Well, Peterson was that help, but he froze, and he failed us all that day," she said.

"He was supposedly the good guy with the gun who was supposed to go in and meet the threat, and he let us all down."

Peterson's bail was set at 102,000 US dollars (£80,000).

His lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo III, said in a statement that Peterson is merely a scapegoat. He called the charges "a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution."

"We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law," he said, arguing that Peterson was not a caregiver, which he said the law defines as a parent, adult household member or other person responsible for a child's welfare.

"The definition of 'other person responsible for a child's welfare' expressly excludes law enforcement officers acting in an official capacity."

Twenty-year-old Nikolas Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted of killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack.

He has offered to plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.

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