FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A former school resource officer accused of not entering Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when a gunman was killing students and teachers broke into tears speaking after a court hearing Wednesday morning.
“I’ll never forget the day,” Scot Peterson said of the Feb. 14, 2018 Parkland mass shooting. “Not only kids died. I had friends that died. Never for a second would I sit there and allow anyone to die knowing that animal was up in the building. Never.”
There are seven counts of neglect and a perjury charge that Peterson’s attorney Mark Eiglarsh wants dismissed. He argued in the hearing that his client is not a caregiver — a parent, adult household member or teacher — and therefore shouldn’t be charged with child neglect.
“We said as a matter of law he should never have been charged under a neglect statute which holds responsible parents, teachers, kidnappers, babysitters — but not resource officers. It’s very clear in the statute that law enforcement officers do not apply,” Eiglarsh said outside the courtroom.
He also argued that a perjury charge should be dropped because when Peterson was questioned about the school shooting he was stating an opinion on the shoot, such as how many gunshots he heard, not facts.
Prosecutors argue that school resource officers are different from police officers, that they are tasked with securing school grounds, and that Peterson’s role was to protect kids.
“He is a caregiver and his responsibilities encompass that of law enforcement, but they go beyond law enforcement and they are kind of a hybrid position in the schools. And as such he is a caregiver and your honor should deny this motion,” said prosecutor Chris Killoran.
A judge still has to decide whether to dismiss the charges. Peterson is next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 9.
Anthony Borges, who was critically injured but survived the school shooting, was in court with his parents and his family’s attorney Wednesday. The judge said it was not appropriate to hear from the family in this particular hearing but he was not opposed to it in general.
Peterson claims that while he was radioing for help, he didn’t know where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was.
“I didn’t do anything there to try and hurt any child there on the scene,” Peterson said. “I did the best I could with the information. I did the best.”
Surveillance video showed that he never entered the building to engage Cruz while the killings were happening.