Former BSO deputy arrested for neglect of duty during MSD shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has arrested former Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy Scot Peterson for neglect of duty during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Peterson was arrested on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges and booked into the Broward County Jail, Tuesday.

In a release, the Broward State Attorney’s Office stated, “Following a 14-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested Tuesday on seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury. The investigation examined the actions of law enforcement during and following the Parkland school mass shooting.”

Along with Peterson’s arrest, he was officially terminated by BSO. Also terminated was BSO Sgt. Brian Miller.

According to investigators, Miller arrived at the school in time to hear gunshots, however, body camera video later showed that Miller took his time putting on his body armor and never entered the building. BSO has since terminated Miller, and it remains unclear if he will face charges.

“The deputy and sergeant were found to have neglected their duties at MSD High School,” noted a press release from BSO. “They have been terminated and will no longer be privileged to serve as law enforcement deputies for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen released a statement Tuesday that read, “The FDLE investigation shows former deputy Peterson 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 to reporters, “When we saw the timeline that day, and he stood there for some 45, 48 minutes and did nothing, you know. As law enforcement officers, despite whatever policies and procedures our agencies have, we swear an oath to protect the public that we serve, and I think it says now that you will be held accountable. If you don’t do your job, you will be held accountable.”

According to the arrest documents, Peterson is accused of failing to investigate the source of the gunshots, fleeing approximately 75 feet from the building and remaining there, failing to move towards the gunfire and failing to seek out or confront the shooter.

Documents stated the active shooter training Peterson received in April 2016 teaches that time is critical and that victims are the first priority.

Michael Piper, Peterson’s civil attorney, said the arrest took him and his client by surprise.

“From the time the chairman of the Public Safety Commission first publicly raised what I thought then were unfathomable possibilities of criminal charges, we advised Deputy Peterson to engage separate counsel to ensure that his best interests were represented in that regard,” Piper said. “Deputy Peterson did so, and in that regard, we will have to defer to Deputy Peterson’s criminal counsel for any comment on today’s charges, specifically.”

BSO Sheriff Gregory Tony also released a statement on the Tuesday arrest.

“All the facts related to Mr. Peterson’s failure to act during the MSD massacre clearly warranted both termination of employment and criminal charges. It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” Tony said in a statement.

Joseph DiRuzzo, Peterson’s criminal attorney, released a statement late Tuesday night that read in part, “The State of Florida has taken unprecedented action by charging Mr. Peterson for child neglect and culpable negligence. We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law. Specifically, 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.'”

If convicted, the 11 charges technically carry a maximum potential punishment of 96 and a half years in state prison.

On Twitter, Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter, Jamie Guttenberg, in the shooting, said, “I have no comment except to say 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.”

Broward County School Board Member Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter, Alyssa Alhadeff, in the shooting, said Peterson needs to be held accountable for his inaction.

“He needs to go to jail, and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to death of our loved ones,” Alhadeff said.

Gena Hoyer, who lost her son, Luke Hoyer, in the shooting, said, “We miss our children every day, and there’s nothing that’s gonna bring them back, and we know that, but it hurts so much, and I know that whatever accountability comes our way, it doesn’t bring back Luke and Alyssa [Alhadeff], so we’ve had to deal with that on our own. But there needs to be accountability here. We’re standing here for a reason of failures in Broward County.”

The Parkland parents, although raw in emotion, feel a lot better since Peterson’s arrest, and they said they feel that the FDLE and Tony are doing their jobs.

Tony Montalto, who lost his daughter, Gina Montalto, in the shooting, said the arrest has been a long time coming for Peterson.

“We’re pleased to see again some accountability for this tragedy that took the life of my daughter and 16 other wonderful people,” Montalto said.

Ryan Petty lost his daughter, Alaina Petty, in the shooting and said the chapter isn’t closed yet because Peterson’s legal battle has just begun.

“It’s very clear he knew what was happening,” Petty said. “It’s very clear to me he knew where the shots were coming from inside the building, and it was very clear he took a defensive position behind a cement pillar and stayed there for 48 minutes even while other law enforcement responded and went in the building.”

The parents who spoke to 7News said although they will never see their loved ones again, they said the time they have waited for the investigation to conclude was well-spent.

Max Schachter, who lost his son, Alex Schachter, in the shooting, said, “[Peterson] was the outlier. He was the coward. I know that every other law enforcement officer from FDLE, from all across the state, cares about doing the right thing, and they’ve proved it today.”

Cameron Kasky, a former MSD student and co-founder of the March for Our Lives movement, said on Twitter, “So thrilled that the Parkland community is getting some justice with Peterson getting put behind bars. It’s nice to know that some evil people can get the punishment they deserve.”

Former BSO Sheriff Scott Israel and his attorneys released a statement Tuesday night that read:

“On behalf of Sheriff Israel, Stuart Kaplan and I remind the public that former Deputy Peterson is presumed innocent. This new development is a vitally important matter in Sheriff Israel’s Suspension Review that I intend to bring to the attention of Special Master Goodlette. The impact on the validity of the Governor’s suspension is significant, especially since it was the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Executive Branch Agency, that presented the allegations of wrongdoing. Sheriff Israel is certainly entitled to learn what and when the Executive Branch knew about this matter, and obtain all relevant materials underlying the charges. Fundamental fairness demands that Sheriff Israel be apprised of the details of this development in presenting his case for resumption as Sheriff, precisely as he was elected by the people to serve.”

The MSD Public Safety Commission will continue their discussion on school safety Wednesday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Peterson faced a judge on Wednesday morning and was granted a $102,000 bond.

The judge found probable cause and ordered Peterson to surrender his passport.

Should he bond out, Peterson will have to wear a GPS monitor.