The former Florida sheriff’s deputy who was accused of hiding out and not pursuing the school shooter who left 17 dead will stand trial according to a judge’s ruling on Thursday.
The former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, 58, will need to convince a jury that his inaction did not amount to criminal negligence after Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein declined to dismiss the 11 charges which include felony child neglect.
Peterson, whom many have dubbed the “Coward of Broward,” acted as the school resource officer at Parkland Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The then 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder for the 2018 Valentine’s Day shooting.
The prosecution argued in a hearing on Wednesday that Peterson should have come to the now-deceased victims’ rescue as Cruz fired off the rounds that echoed in the hallways of the school. However, his defense argued that the law cited in the prosecution’s case is specifically for caregivers and his former position as a school resource officer does not fit within the definition of being a “caregiver,” according to a report by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Peterson’s inaction that mid-February day – a day that resulted in 17 killed and 17 others injured – could come at the ultimate price for the former officer who was near retirement at the time because, if convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Video showed Peterson arriving on the scene in a golf cart and then just staying outside, despite the shots being fired inside the school. Peterson has claimed that he did not enter the building because he thought the shots were coming from outside.
He has also claimed that he only heard two shots, although there have been reports of more than 150 having been fired.
“I was scanning for the shooter, looking over the windows, the sidewalk, the rooftop. I thought maybe it was a sniper like in Las Vegas,” he said in 2018. “I just didn’t know.”
Although Peterson’s defense team has indicated he would have pled guilty in exchange for life in prison, the prosecution is pushing forward with a jury trial.
Shortly after the tragic event, Andrew Pollack, father of one of the victims reacted to the video of Peterson standing around outside of the school.
“I can’t stomach to watch it,” he told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum. “I just heard what was going on and not only is he an embarrassment to every police officer that puts the uniform on, he’s a coward and he’s also a liar.”
Pollack believes that had Peterson reacted immediately and entered the building, that his daughter Meadow Pollack who was killed on the third floor, would still be alive.
“He lied in the investigation, so not only is he a coward, he’s also a liar,” Pollack continued. “He knew when that guy brought him in the golf cart, he brought him right to the building. So, and then he said he didn’t know the shots were coming from there, so he lied right there.”
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