The Parkland school resource officer who did nothing as a teenage gunman murdered students and teachers appeared in court on Wednesday after being charged with neglect.
Scot Peterson was stony-faced as he appeared via video link to a court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from the Broward County Jail.
He was charged on Tuesday with failing to protect the 17 students and teachers who were killed by Nikolas Cruz on Valentine’s Day 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
On Wednesday, Peterson’s lawyer tried to have the charges dismissed and also asked for his bond to be reduced. The judge denied both requests.
Peterson, 56, was arrested on Tuesday on 11 charges including child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. If convicted, he faces a potential prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
He is being held on a $102,000 bond which his attorneys sought to have reduced.
They say the charges do not apply because they are designed for ‘caregivers’ of children – ie children and teachers – which they say he is not.
His case is the first in which someone else has been charged other than the gunman in a school shooting.
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Scot Peterson was stony-faced as he appeared via video link to a court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from the Broward County Jail
On February 14, 2018, Peterson was outside the building when Cruz opened fire.
Peterson was arrested on Tuesday. He is shown in his mugshot
He eventually took up his position, gun drawn, but did not go inside. In court papers, prosecutors said five people were killed and four others wounded after he did that.
His lawyers’ defense, it seems, will be to try to argue out of the allegations on the technicality that he was employed by the police and not by the school.
‘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.
‘Mr. Peterson was not criminally negligent in his actions, as no police officer has ever been prosecuted for his or her actions in responding to an active shooter incident.
‘There has only ever been one person to blame – Nikolas Cruz,’ his attorney Joseph DiRuzzo said.
WHAT PETERSON DID AND DID NOT DO
He did not enter the building
When the first shots were fired inside the 1200 building, Peterson was outside. Despite his training, he stayed there and drew his gun.
For 45 minutes while police searched for Cruz and after unarmed adults had been killed trying to protect students inside, Peterson hid in a building 75ft from where the massacre had happened.
Prosecutors say that during that time, seven kids were killed.
After the shooting, Peterson claimed he had not heard the shots being fired inside the school which, prosecutors say, was untrue.
The judge did not allow them to lay out any form of argument.
‘I’m not going to entertain any motions today,’ Broward Judge Jackie Powell said.
After his appearance in court, Peterson’s lawyer told reporters they would try again to get bond lowered.
‘We are waiting for the case to be assigned to a circuit criminal judge.
‘We intend to file a motion to reduce bond and a motion to modify the terms of pretrial release.
‘We expect Mr. Peterson to be treated fairly, just like every other person,’ one said afterwards.
They then went to visit him in the jail where he appeared via video-link.
It is not clear if any of the parents of the children murdered were in court on Wednesday.
They welcomed news of his arrest on Tuesday.
‘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,’ Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed, said.
Peterson is shown talking into his radio on the day of the shooting. He advised that shots had been fired and said where they were coming from but later claimed he did not know the shooter was inside the building he was terrorizing
After telling other officers not to enter the school on February 14, Peterson hid 75ft away with his gun drawn for 45 minutes (shown)
Peterson’s attorneys Joseph DiRuzzo and David Sobel arrive at the jail where he is being held on Wednesday after the hearing
Scot Peterson is shown in a June 2018 interview on Today where he insisted that he did not know the gunman was inside the school
PARKLAND SHOOTING TIMELINE
2.06pm: Nikolas Cruz is collected in an Uber
2. 18pm: Cruz sends final text to the son of the Sneads, the family he was living with. He asked him what classroom he was in at the school and what teacher he had. His final message was: ‘Yo’
2.19pm: Cruz, 19, is dropped off by Uber
2:21:18pm: He is seen entering building 12 on surveillance cameras from the school
2:21:33pm Cruz starts firing his rifle
2.22pm: First 911 call from the shooting is made to Coral Springs
2.23pm: Scot Peterson, the school resource officer, makes his first 911 call over his radio and describes the gunfire as ‘possible firecrackers’
At the same time, he is seen on surveillance videos making his way there
2:25:08pm: Another officer is hear on radio saying: ‘I hear shots by the football field, shots fired by the football field
2.25:18pm: Peterson says: ‘We’re looking at the 1200 building, it’s going to be the 300 building, it’s right off Holmberg Road, by the senior lot’
2:25:38pm: Peterson says ‘get the school locked down gentleman’
2:25:56pm: Petersons says: We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200 building’
2:26pm: Students are seen running west towards football field
2:27: 35pm: Cruz is seen on school surveillance cameras dropping his AR-15 in the stairwell
2.27: 55pm: He is filmed leaving the west side of the building
2.28pm: Seconds later, Peterson says over his radio: ‘Do not approach. Stay at least 500 feet away at this point.’
2:29pm: Cruz is filmed on another surveillance camera on the other side of campus
2:31pm: Broward County Captain Jan Jordan joins the radio communication. She asks: ‘I know there is a lot going on , do we have a perimeter set up right now and everyone cleared out of the school?’
2.32pm: Four Coral Springs Police Department officers go into the building through the west door
2.33pm: Broward County Police Captain Jan Jordan says: ‘I want to make sure that we have a perimeter set up and the school, all the kids are getting out, but we need to shut down around this school.’
2.33pm: A Broward County Sheriff’s Officer says there is a team entering the school from the north side
2:35pm: A Broward County Sheriff’s Officer and a Coral Springs Police Department officer pull a victim from the school and drive them away on a golf cart
2:36pm: 1O officers (8 from Coral Springs and 2 from Broward County) enter the first floor
2.50pm: Cruz enters a Walmart and buys a drink at the Subway then runs away on foot
2:51 p.m: First notice of shootings to local hospital Broward Health North.
2:55 p.m: First victim arrives at ER at Broward Health North.
3:01 p.m: Cruz goes to McDonalds, sits down for a short time and then leaves on foot
3:40 p.m: Cruz is arrested near 4700 Wyndham Lakes Drive in Coral Springs
Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting, said families wanted justice to be done.
‘We are happy to see some accountability for this tragedy that took the life of my daughter Gina and 16 other wonderful individuals as well as terribly injured 17 others,’ he said.
Gunman Nikolas Cruz is facing execution
‘He could have and would have saved lives.
‘So he has to deal with that for the rest of his life, ‘ added Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed.
Peterson has said in the past that his lack of action on the day of the shooting would ‘haunt him’ for the rest of his life but he has always maintained that he did not know the shots were being fired inside.
He claims he thought the gunfire was happening outside the school and that is why he did not enter the building when he was the only armed guard there.
‘It haunts me that I didn’t know at that moment, you know, that — those are my kids in there.
‘I never would have sat there and let my kids get slaughtered,’ he said in June last year.
Legal experts have questioned whether or not the charges against him are fair.
He is already facing numerous lawsuits from the families of some of the victims.
Parkland victims remembered: The 14 students and three teachers who died on February 14, 2018
Jaime Guttenberg, 14, (left) was described by relatives as a ‘kind-hearted, sweet’ girl. Senior Nicholas Dworet (right) was a gifted swimmer who had his sights set on 2020 Tokyo Olympics success. His devastated college student girlfriend is among those grieving his death. Friends said he was not just a talented athlete, but a ‘good guy’ who will be missed
Martin Duque, 14, (left) was a freshman. Meadow Pollack, 18, (right) was preparing for college
Cara Loughran, 14, (left) loved Irish dancing and the beach. Alyssa Alhadeff, 15, (right) was eulogized by her mother who said she was a talented soccer player and creative mind. ‘All she had to offer the world was love… I just sent her to school and she was shot and killed’
Luke Hoyer (left), 15, was described as a ‘precious’ child by his grandparents, who said he was a ‘good kid’ who ‘never got in trouble’. Joaquin Oliver, 17, (right), was a Venezuelan immigrant who came to the US with his family for a ‘better future’
Gina Montalto, 15, (left) was described as a ‘light and joy’. She volunteered at a local project called The Friendship Initiative as a buddy for children with special needs. Alaina Petty, 14, (right) was also killed. Her Mormon church said she was a ‘valiant’ member
Carmen Schentrup, 16, (left) was a gifted student who last year was named as a semifinalist in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. ROTC student Peter Wang, 15, (right) also died. Students said that Peter held the door open for others while they fled
Alex Schachter, 14, (left) was described by his father Max as a ‘sweetheart of a child’ who ‘just wanted to do well and please his parents’. Helena Ramsey, 17, (right) was described by relatives as a ‘reserved’ and studious girl who was due to go to college next year
Geography Scott Beigel, 35, (left) was shot dead as he tried to lock the door of his classroom again after letting a group of fleeing students in to hide. They were running away from the gunman. Athletic director Chris Hixon, 49, (right) was also killed shielding students
Aaron Feis, 37, (center) died acting as a human shield. The track coach had thrown himself on top of the kids to stop the bullets from hitting him. He was a former student and was also a security guard at the school where he had worked for eight years