Deputy Weeps After Acquittal in School Shooting Trial

Scot Peterson was accused of failing to stop the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 29, 2023 2:47 PM CDT
Deputy Acquitted of Failing to Act During School Shooting
Scot Peterson reacts as he is found not guilty on all charges at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday, June 29, 2023.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

A Florida sheriff's deputy was acquitted Thursday of felony child neglect and other charges for his actions during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, concluding the first trial in US history of a law enforcement officer for conduct during an on-campus shooting. Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson wept as the verdicts were read, per the AP. The jury had deliberated for 19 hours over four days. The campus deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Peterson had been charged with failing to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz during his six-minute attack inside a three-story 1200 classroom building on Feb. 14, 2018, that left 17 dead.

After court adjourned, Peterson, his family, and friends rushed into a group hug as they whooped, hollered and cried. One of his supporters chased after lead prosecutor Chris Killoran and said something. Killoran turned and snapped at him, "Way to be a good winner" and slapped him on the shoulder. Members of the prosecution team then nudged Killoran out of the courtroom. Peterson could have received nearly 100 years in prison, although a sentence even approaching that length would have been highly unlikely given the circumstances and his clean record. He also could have lost his $104,000 annual pension.

Prosecutors, during their two-week presentation, called to the witness stand students, teachers, and law enforcement officers who testified about the horror they experienced and how they knew where Cruz was. Peterson's attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, during his two-day presentation, called several deputies who arrived during the shooting and students and teachers who testified they did not think the shots were coming from the 1200 building. Peterson, who did not testify, has said that because of echoes, he could not pinpoint the shooter's location. (A colleague testified that Peterson's face "went blank" as the shooting unfolded.)

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