Former officer charged for not responding to Florida school shooting

 Former officer charged for not responding to Florida school shooting

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A former Florida sheriff's deputy was arrested on Tuesday on multiple felony and misdemeanour charges stemming from his lack of response during the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, the county sheriff said.

Scot Peterson, 56, who was taken into custody, faces multiple counts of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury, Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz said in a statement. The charges carry a combined maximum prison sentence of nearly 97 years, he said.

Peterson, at the time a Broward County deputy, was on duty as a school resource officer when a gunman entered the school building on Feb. 14, 2018, and opened fire. He never went inside during the shooting and 17 people died and 17 others were wounded, according to the sheriff's office and surveillance video.

Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time and previously had been expelled from the school, was charged with the murders. He is awaiting trial.

Peterson also faces legal trouble in civil court. In May 2018, Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Peterson. His son Hunter said on Twitter that he hoped Peterson spends the rest of his life in prison.

"He cowered in Parkland while my sister died defenceless and lied about his failure to confront the shooter," he said.

Peterson's lawyer in the civil lawsuit, Joseph DiRuzzo, did not respond to a request for comment.

DEPUTIES FIRED

Peterson was booked into the Broward County jail and his bond set at $102,000.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said on Tuesday he had fired Peterson and another deputy, Brian Miller, who he said neglected their duties during the shooting.

"We cannot fulfil 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.

Peterson resigned a week after the shooting. But his and Miller's termination means they can no longer serve as law enforcement deputies for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff said.

Peterson's arrest follows a 14-month investigation that included interviews of 184 witnesses into law enforcement's response during the shooting.

Some Broward County sheriff's deputies held back too long as shots were fired instead of rushing toward the gunfire, according to a 485-page report released in January 2019 by a state-appointed commission.

The commission also found Broward County Sheriff's Office training on active shooters was inadequate. The commission recommended arming teachers and spending more on school security and mental health to prevent similar mass shootings.

SEVEN UNDER INVESTIGATION

Seven deputies in all were under an internal sheriff's office investigation to determine if their actions complied with department standards, Tony said.

Broward County Public Schools officials were not immediately available for comment.

Senator Rick Scott, who was governor of Florida when the shooting happened, said it was time for justice to be served.

"Had this individual done his job, lives would have been saved. Actions (or inaction) have consequences," he said in a statement.

Three weeks after the shooting, Scott signed into law on Friday a bill imposing a 21-year-old legal age requirement and three-day waiting period on all gun purchases and allowing the arming of some school employees.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Richard Chang)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Jun 05, 2019 07:07:23 IST