Florida Deputy's Face Went 'Blank' During Mass Shooting

Scot Peterson on trial for failing to try to stop massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 20, 2023 1:13 PM CDT
Florida Deputy's Face Went 'Blank' During Mass Shooting
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School School Resource Officer Scot Peterson is shown at the defense table during his trial at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The face of a former Florida sheriff's deputy went “blank” as shots rang out from a Parkland high school building five years ago, and he did not appear to grasp that a gunman was inside killing 17 people, a former supervisor testified during the deputy's trial Tuesday. Kelvin Greenleaf, testifying for the prosecution, said he was unarmed and standing next to Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson about 10 yards from the three-story 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, per the AP. They had just ridden together to the area in a golf cart after hearing the first shots.

Peterson drew his handgun, but instead of going inside he told Greenleaf they needed to take cover and went with him to the outside of a neighboring building, the former supervisor said. Peterson stayed next to the building for 40 minutes, long after the shots ended and other officers had stormed inside. “He just had a blank look on his face. It was so much going on and I could imagine the stress, the pressure he was on,” said Greenleaf, who has since retired. Peterson, then the school's assigned deputy, is on trial for felony child neglect and other charges for failing to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz during his six-minute attack on Feb. 14, 2018.

Peterson, 60, has insisted that because of echoes he did not know where the shots were coming from, which is why he did not enter the 1200 building. But Greenleaf said that while standing with Peterson, he immediately knew the shooter's location. Cruz used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, and Greenleaf said the shots were loud. “The shots I knew for certain were coming from the 1200 building,” Greenleaf said. Under cross-examination by Peterson's attorney, Greenleaf testified that in seven years working with Peterson he never showed cowardice. “He did a great job. Anytime I needed him for searches, fights, stolen cellphones—he was always there,” Greenleaf said.

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Peterson could be sentenced to nearly 100 years in prison and lose his $104,000 annual pension if convicted. He retired shortly after the shooting before being fired retroactively. Prosecutors intend to conclude their two-week presentation Wednesday. They have called to the witness stand students, teachers, and law enforcement officers who have testified about the horror they experienced and how they knew where Cruz was. Peterson is the first US law enforcement officer ever charged for an alleged failure to act during a school shooting.

(More Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stories.)

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