A Florida jury has found former Parkland school resource officer Scot Peterson not guilty on all counts.
Peterson faced seven counts of felony child neglect and was the first law enforcement officer in the U.S. to face criminal charges stemming from his alleged inaction during an active school shooting. He was also charged with three counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence in relation to the adults shot in the building. Additionally, he was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to detectives.
Peterson would have faced prison time and a loss of his $104,000 annual pension if convicted of the child neglect charges.
As the verdict was announced, Peterson could be seen breaking down in tears inside the courtroom.
During the trial, students, a sheriff’s deputy and teachers testified and were asked where they thought the initial shots were coming from during the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Fourteen students and three staff members died during the shooting committed by Nikolas Cruz.
Kristen Gomes, an assistant state attorney for Broward County, said during closing arguments on Monday, “Every student and every teacher on the third floor was still alive.”
“And Scot Peterson chose to run,” Gomes said.
Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said in response that his client couldn’t determine where the shots were coming from, adding that it was unclear whether several shooters were present. He said that Peterson responded by issuing a school-wide “code red.”
“We’re here because of that monster,” Eiglarsh said. “He did it,” pointing to a picture of Cruz.
Following Peterson’s acquittal on all charges, Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor said “To those who have tried to make this political, I say: It is not political to expect someone to do their job.”
“As parents, we have an expectation that armed school resource officers – who are under contract to be caregivers to our children – will do their jobs when we entrust our children to them and the schools they guard. They have a special role and responsibilities that exceed the role and responsibilities of a police officer,” Pryor said.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Parkland shooting, told Fox News Digital that “Nothing in today’s verdict absolves Scot Peterson of his failures on February 14, 2018.”
“Peterson was at the door of the building, heard shots and retreated to cover, remaining there for 48 minutes while the killer continued his rampage,” Petty said. “Peterson remained behind that cover even after other members of law enforcement had entered the building and were treating casualties. He will have to live with his failures for the rest of his life.”
Hunter Pollack, whose sister Meadow was also killed in the shooting, told Fox News Digital that the verdict is “disappointing, but it’s not shocking to me.”
“We learned from the Cruz verdict that this verdict could go either way. But although there wasn’t justice in the courtroom today, the public will forever remember Scot Peterson as the coward who hid outside the 1200 building behind the concrete pillar, as the students he had a duty to protect were being murdered,” Pollack said. “Scot Peterson will forever have to live with the decision of not going in that building and saving those kids. You heard in the courtroom that Scot Peterson could have confronted the shooter before people on the third floor were being killed and Meadow was on the third floor.”
“So Scot Peterson has to live with the decision that he could have saved lives and he coward out and between the public humiliation and the fact he has to live with the decision he made is a punishment in my eyes,” he said.