Jury Finds Former Deputy Not Guilty for Behavior During Parkland Shooting

June 29, 2023

A jury on Thursday found Scot Peterson, former deputy in Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Office, not guilty of 11 counts after he remained outside while a gunman killed 17 people in a Parkland high school. 

The counts against Peterson had included felony child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. Had he been found guilty he could have faced life in prison.

In 2019, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire with an AR-15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, killing 17 and injuring 14 others. He fled by concealing himself in a crowd but was eventually arrested in nearby Coral Springs

Then-Deputy Peterson, a 33-year law enforcement veteran, was the only other person with a gun at the school when the shooter opened fire. He was forced to retire following the school shooting.

Prosecutors had accused the 60-year-old of ignoring his training and doing nothing while the 17 victims, including 14 students, were gunned down.

Among the counts against him, he had been charged with child neglect under a Florida statute that governs caregivers. Prosecutors said Peterson had a duty to protect the teenaged students. 

He had defended himself in the media and elsewhere by saying, “But it wasn’t because of some, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into that building. Oh, I don’t want to face somebody in there.’ It wasn’t like that at all.”

His attorney argued in court that he didn’t enter the school building amid the attack because he couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from. 

Lawyers for Peterson had previously rebuffed the charges against him as “unprecedented” and “spurious.”

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