Here's a closer look at the case the State of Florida intends to prove against former Majory Stoneman Douglas High School SRO Scot Peterson. For full coverage of the trial, visit https://www.securityinfowatch.com/53062933. For a quick recap of Thursday's opening statements, click here.
In the State of Florida’s probable cause affidavit, the state claimed the following:
1. As a member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Peterson had received many hours of training in the proper response to an active shooter situation, and furthermore had received additional training as a School Resource Officer (SRO).
2. Peterson was aware that active shooter Nicholas Cruz was inside the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and willfully failed to act pursuant to his law enforcement training and sworn duties to promptly address the active shooter; instead retreating to a position of increased personal safety.
3. Peterson failed to make a reasonable effort “as a caregiver” to protect the children “from abuse, neglect or exploitation” (this wording is important – more later) by failing or refusing to investigate the source of the gunshots, fleeing the area, and not engaging or confronting the gunman.
Peter L. Tragos, managing partner at the Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos in Clearwater, Fla., hosts a popular YouTube show, “The Lawyer You Know,” in which he analyzes high-profile cases. Here was his take on the Peterson case, during a recent broadcast: “The overarching theme throughout this case is that what happened that day was tragic, and what happened that day was a crime….and Peterson failed these students. He screwed up; he did not save them, and that is also tragic. But even if his failure is true, what would make it rise to the level of a crime? That’s the big question.”
“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,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a 2019 press release. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Peterson faces seven counts of neglect of a child. The state is claiming that Peterson was in the position of “caregiver” of the children at the school, which makes his failure to protect those children – via neglect – a felony under Florida law. In his YouTube analysis, Tragos said he has never seen a law enforcement officer categorized in such a way.
He also faces three counts of misdemeanor “culpable negligence,” where he exhibited “a reckless indifference to or grossly careless disregard for others,” exposing adults on the third floor of the building to personal injury.
Finally, Peterson faces a perjury charge for giving conflicting statements regarding whether he heard shots or not as he took cover.
If convicted, Peterson faces a maximum of 96.5 years in state prison.
Is it a Crime?
In an interview with the Law & Crime Network, Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh says the defense will claim Peterson did not know the shots were coming from inside the building.
“He did not know precisely where the shots were coming from,” Eiglarsh said. “He had no idea with certainty that the shots were coming from inside the 1200 building at that any kids were killed at all. People say he was there for so long, but his only opportunity to ‘kill the killer’ was four minutes and 15 seconds…every witness will tell you it was reasonable for my client to think the shots were coming from outside.”
Daily Trial Coverage
Visit SecurityInfoWath.com as we track this important trial for you, as the decision could have major implications on law enforcement, school security, uniformed guarding services and more.