Florida resource officer who didn't enter school during shooting massacre is arrested

Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High resource officer Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested Tuesday on charges relating to failure to enter the school during the mass shooting there.

He was charged in Broward County with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one of perjury after a 15-month investigation, according to a news release from Florida authorities.

The charges carry a combined potential prison sentence of nearly 100 years for the officer blasted by many critics as the "Coward of Broward."

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Peterson’s bail was set at $102,000.

Once released, Peterson will be required to wear a GPS monitor and surrender his passport, and will be prohibited from possessing a firearm, the prosecutor said.

Peterson faces child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury charges that carry a combined potential prison sentence of nearly 100 years. (REUTERS, File) 

Peterson faces child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury charges that carry a combined potential prison sentence of nearly 100 years. (REUTERS, File) 

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (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,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”

Investigators interviewed 184 witnesses and reviewed hours of video surveillance to determine the response of law enforcement, Fox 13 reported.

"It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said.

Tony said Peterson has been formally fired, although he announced his retirement shortly after the shooting.

Republican Sen. Rick Scott said in a statement: “Had this individual done his job, lives would have been saved. Actions (or inaction) have consequences. We need more accountability, and that includes at the FBI, which has yet to show me a single example of how they’ve improved their processes following the failures in the leadup to the Parkland shooting.”

Ryan Petty, the father of slain student Alaina Petty, said in a statement, “Today marks another step in the search for accountability. … Peterson failed in his duty to protect lives that day, standing behind a cement pillar for 48 minutes while students and teachers were slaughtered.”

Fred Guttenberg, another father of a victim, tweeted: “I have no comment except to say rot in hell Scott Petersen. You could have saved some of the 17. You could have saved my daughter. You did not and then you lied about it and you deserve the misery coming your way.”

Peterson lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo III said in a statement: “We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law. Specifically, Mr. Peterson cannot reasonably be prosecuted because he was not a ‘caregiver’, which is defined as ‘a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.’"

He added: “President Eisenhower has said that ‘the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.’ Today the individuals who have made this charging decision have taken the easy way out and blamed Mr. Peterson for the actions on February 14, 2018, when there has only ever been one person to blame – Nikolas Cruz.”

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Alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz, 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of the first-degree murder charges filed in the attack. His lawyers have said Cruz will plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.

Cruz is expected to go on trial in early 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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