(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity
(844) 627-8267 | Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Then-Parkland school resource officer who stayed outside during mass shooting found not guilty | #schoolsaftey

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A jury has acquitted on all counts the former school resource officer who stayed outside during the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – absolving him of wrongdoing in the rare trial of a law enforcement officer for his response to a mass shooting.

Scot Peterson, 60, took off his glasses and wept in court as the judge read the verdict, which found him not guilty of seven counts of felony child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.

“I’ve got my life back,” Peterson, a former deputy for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters outside court, describing the years since the shooting as “an emotional roller coaster.”

State prosecutors accused Peterson of ignoring his training and doing nothing as 17 people, including 14 students, were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in what remains the deadliest US high school shooting ever. His attorney argued the then-deputy didn’t enter the school’s 1200 building, the site of the attack, because he couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from.

“The only person to blame was that monster,” Peterson said of the shooter. “It wasn’t any law enforcement, nobody on that scene, from BSO, Coral Springs. Everybody did the best they could. We did the best we could with the information we had, and God knows we wish we had more at that point.”

Amy Beth Bennett/Pool/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP

Scot Peterson reacts as he is found not guilty on all charges at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday.

The seven counts of felony child neglect and three counts of culpable negligence each stemmed from the deaths and injuries of eight students – seven of them minors – and two school employees on the third floor of the 1200 building: Teacher Scott Beigel and students Meadow Pollack, Jaime Guttenberg, Cara Loughran, Joaquin Oliver and Peter Wang all were killed, while teacher Stacey Lippel and students Anthony Borges, Kyle Laman and Marian Kabachenko were wounded and survived.

Peterson was not charged in connection with the victims on the first floor because he had not yet arrived on scene; no one was killed on the second floor.

He faced a perjury charge for telling investigators afterward that he didn’t see students fleeing the 1200 building and that he heard only two or three gunshots after arriving at the scene while other witnesses said they’d heard more. The state claimed the evidence showed both statements were untrue.

The case was notable, in part, for the state’s decision to bring the child neglect charges under a Florida statute that governs caregivers, arguing Peterson as a school resource officer had a duty to protect the students. The defense had argued Peterson did not qualify as a caregiver because he was a law enforcement officer. That determination was ultimately left up to the jury, which deliberated for more than 19 hours.

But the case also highlighted broadly held expectations for law enforcement as Americans continue to grapple with an epidemic of gun violence: About 200 attacks have unfolded on K-12 campuses since the Valentine’s Day carnage at the Parkland school, a CNN tally shows, and more than 330 shootings with at least four wounded, excluding a shooter, have been recorded so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“This is not just a victory for Scot, it’s a victory for every law enforcement officer in this country who does the best they can do every single day,” Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said outside court Thursday. “How dare prosecutors try to second-guess the actions of honorable, decent police officers.”

Amy Beth Bennett/AP

Defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh gives his closing argument Monday.

The outcome, however, was another disappointment for some of the victims’ families, many of whom were upset by a jury’s decision last year not to unanimously recommend the death penalty for the shooter. He is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

“It’s another failure. The system did it again and again and again,” Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin, told CNN “News Central” Thursday.

“I’m watching this individual crying like a victim. He signed for a job that he did not deliver. Shame on him for that, too,” he added.

Peterson was accused of failing to confront the gunman according to his active shooter training, instead taking cover for more than 45 minutes outside the school’s three-story 1200 building before the killer was apprehended.

Throughout their case, the state called law enforcement officers who told the jury their training dictated they move toward the sound of gunfire to confront a possible shooter or shooters – a strategy widely adopted after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Instead, prosecutors said, Peterson held a “position of cover” outside the 1200 building. And in doing so, Assistant State Attorney Kristen Gomes said in closing arguments Monday, he “left behind an unrestricted killer to spend the next 4 minutes and 15 seconds wandering the halls at his leisure.”

“Because when Scot Peterson ran, he left children trapped inside of the building with a predator unchecked,” she said.

But Peterson, who retired as criticism of his actions grew, never knew where the shooter was, Eiglarsh told jurors, pointing to other witnesses who testified they could not narrow down where the deadly shots originated.

The trial included testimony from former students, staff and members of law enforcement who supported the ex-deputy’s claim it was difficult to hear where the gunfire was coming from due to the reverberation and echoes on campus.

“Two dozen witnesses came in here one by one and told you they couldn’t tell from the sounds precisely what area we’re talking about,” Eiglarsh said in his closing argument Monday.

Jurors also heard from witnesses who testified they knew the shots were emanating from the 1200 building. Prosecutors pointed to Peterson’s radio communications – in which he referenced the 1200 building several times – as evidence he knew where the shooter was or at least had enough information to seek out the gunman.

“The state did not expect Scot Peterson to go on a suicide mission,” Gomes said Monday, but he had a duty to “confront and engage.”

“What was expected was for Scot Peterson to value the lives of those children as much as he clearly valued his own.”

Amy Beth Bennett/Pool/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP

Scot Peterson kisses his wife, Lydia Rodriguez, as he gives a media interview after being found not guilty on all charges.

Eiglarsh emphasized Peterson was at the scene for the last 4 minutes and 15 seconds of the shooting, which lasted about 6 1/2 minutes. Peterson also arrived at the scene without a bulletproof vest or rifle and called for measures to lock down the school, the attorney told jurors.

Still, the defense attorney argued his client reacted as best he could with the information he had. Eiglarsh called to the stand former assistant principal Jeffrey Morford, who testified it was Peterson who ordered a Code Red, perhaps preventing further carnage.

The former school resource officer also ordered Morford and security specialist Kelvin Greenleaf back to the administrative building, Morford said, so they could review surveillance footage in an effort to locate the shooter.

Eiglarsh pointed to these efforts and others to show that Peterson was not negligent but actively responding as the attack unfolded.

“To sit in the calmness of a courtroom that is chill and mellow and try to go back and Monday morning quarterback is unfair and unjust,” he said.

Victims’ families, still reeling from the shooter’s life sentence, expressed disbelief at the verdict Thursday.

“We don’t understand how this jury looked at the evidence that was presented and found him not guilty,” said Tony Montalto, the father of 14-year-old victim Gina Montalto, who was killed on the first floor of the 1200 building. His faith in the justice system, he said, was “shaken.”

Mike Stocker/Pool/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/AP

Tony Montalto, father of murder victim Gina Montalto, speaks to reporters after Scot Peterson was found not guilty Thursday.

Montalto pointed to body camera footage released Wednesday from last month’s shooting in Allen, Texas, in which an officer is seen searching for and eventually killing the gunman.

“We saw that officer run to address a threat, to take the initiative to go and stop the threat, even though he didn’t know where the shots were,” Montalto said. “That’s the kind of action we all hope (to see).”

As for Peterson: “We still feel he should be haunted every day by his failure to act.”

Darren Levine, a teacher who survived the 2018 shooting, told CNN he felt “very deflated for the families of the victims and the students and teachers who were called back to testify after all these years.”

“With these past two trials, I feel like the MSD community hasn’t been heard by the legal system,” Levine said. “It’s another sad day.”

Source link


Click Here For The Original Source.

National Cyber Security