Public Safety

Former deputy who didn't confront Parkland shooter is arrested, charged with neglect

Former Broward Sheriff’s deputy school resource officer Scot Peterson leaves a court hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)
Former Broward Sheriff’s deputy school resource officer Scot Peterson leaves a court hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)
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The former Broward County, Florida, sheriff’s deputy who did not pursue the gunman attacking a Parkland high school last year was arrested Tuesday and charged with child neglect and negligence stemming from his actions that day.

Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested and charged with 11 counts, including seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury, authorities said.

His actions have been widely pilloried since the Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. Peterson, the lone armed officer on campus during the bloodshed, was recorded standing outside the school building while the massacre was taking place.

Peterson has defended what he did by saying he did not know where the shots were coming from. An attorney who has previously represented Peterson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his arrest.

Broward County prosecutor Mike Satz, whose office is handling the death-penalty case against the former student charged in the attack, said Peterson was arrested after an expansive investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

That agency had been investigating the law enforcement response to the shooting amid criticism of how officers responded. A statewide panel investigating the shooting released a report criticizing how officers responded and how the school handled security.

While Peterson’s actions have been harshly criticized, the panel’s report described “several” Broward County sheriff’s deputies as taking their time to put on or remove gear “while shots were being fired” — which contradicts the widely accepted practice of rushing to confront assailants.

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According to Satz’s office, Peterson’s bond will be set at $102,000, and under the terms of his bond, he must wear a GPS monitor and surrender his passport. The charges he faces include second-degree felonies, third-degree felonies and first-degree misdemeanors, all of which potentially carry decades of time behind bars if he is convicted.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, who took over after his predecessor was suspended over his response to the Parkland massacre, said Tuesday that Peterson and another former deputy were terminated by the office as part of an ongoing investigation into their behavior on the day of the attack.

“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 in a statement. “I am committed to addressing deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”

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