Former BSO Deputy Scot Peterson arrested

FDLE commissioner says ex-Parkland school deputy's 'inaction cost lives'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Disgraced former Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson has been arrested for his failure to act during the Parkland school shooting that left 17 people dead and 17 others wounded, authorities announced Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Peterson, 56, is charged with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.

Tuesday's arrest comes after a 14-month investigation by the FDLE.

Peterson resigned after being suspended by now-suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel shortly after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said Peterson, a former school resource deputy, "did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers and staff and injured 17 others."

"There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives," Swearingen said.

BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said Peterson was arrested Tuesday after an administrative discipline hearing at BSO headquarters.

"We cannot fulfill 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," Sheriff Gregory Tony said.  "I am committed to addressing deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff's Office."

Tony was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suspended Israel shortly after taking office in January.

"I have no comment except to say, 'Rot in hell Scot Peterson,'" Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter, Jaime, in the shooting, wrote on Twitter. "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."

Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz said six of the seven child neglect charges are second-degree felonies, while the seventh charge is a third-degree felony because the child wasn't severely injured. He said the perjury and culpable negligence charges are first- and second-degree misdemeanors.

FDLE agents interviewed 184 witnesses, reviewed hours of surveillance video and wrote 212 investigative reports to determine the actions -- or inaction -- of law enforcement in the aftermath of the shooting.

"The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting was a horrible tragedy and it is devastating to think that the loss of innocent lives of students and faculty could have been prevented," Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. "As a mother, I cannot imagine the heartbreak and pain the families of the victims and the whole Parkland community have felt every day since Feb. 14, 2018. I want to thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Broward (County) State Attorney's Office for investigating this tragedy and holding Scot Peterson responsible for his inaction."

Satz said Peterson's bond will be set at $102,000. Under the terms of his release, Peterson would be required to wear a GPS monitor, must surrender his passport and would be banned from possessing any firearms.

If convicted on all counts, Peterson could face more than 96 years in prison.

"For the life of me, I can't explain how anyone can stand behind a pillar for 48 minutes while innocent students and teachers are being slaughtered in a building and then somehow defend himself," Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter, Alaina, said. "This was a long time coming and I'm glad this day's finally here."

Tony also retroactively fired Peterson, along with Sgt. Brian Miller. Both were found to have neglected their duties last Valentine's Day.

"The Broward Sheriff's Office and our first responders are now better prepared and trained to respond to an active-shooter crisis," Tony said. "We have enhanced our active-shooter response protocol, increased our training staff, introduced essential equipment, established training partnerships with federal organizations and are building a regional training center."

Jeff Bell, head of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, said the charges against Peterson are political and believes they set a dangerous precedent for other law enforcement officials. 

"From the union's point of view, that concerns us because in order for that child neglect charge to be applicable you have to be a caretaker of the individual child," Bell said. "So is Deputy Peterson a caretaker of the children at that school or is he a school resource officer assigned to that school?"

Peterson's attorney, Michael Piper, who is representing him in civil cases, released a statement Tuesday, saying he has advised Peterson to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent him against the charges against him.

"Having represented law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers in civil matters for more than 30 years, from both a legal and professional perspective, I am surprised at what has transpired today and the manner in which it has been orchestrated," Piper said. "As for the criminal charges, from the time that the chairman of the public safety commission first publicly raised the-then unfathomable specter of criminal charges, we advised Deputy Peterson to engage separate counsel to insure that his best interests were represented in that regard. Deputy Peterson did so and we defer to Deputy Peterson's criminal counsel for any comment on today's charges."

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.