The former Florida school resource officer who stayed outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a deadly mass shooting unfolded inside in 2018 was found not guilty Thursday
A jury deliberated over the course of four days before finding former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, 60, not guilty of all 11 charges he faced. The charges included several counts of neglect of a child and culpable negligence.
Peterson could be seen crying as the verdicts were read.
Peterson waited outside the school on Feb. 14, 2018, when a shooter entered the Parkland high school and opened fire, killing 14 students and three staff members. Fifteen others were also injured in the attack.
As the shots rang out in the school, Peterson ― who was the first officer on the scene ― fled to an alcove just outside, where he waited for 48 minutes as students and teachers were killed inside.
“The defendant will never leave that alcove while the shooter is in the building,” prosecutor Steven Klinger said while explaining the timeline during his opening statements earlier this month.
Peterson has maintained he didn’t enter the building because he didn’t know where the gunshots were coming from. During the trial, defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh called two dozen witnesses who testified they also could not tell where the shooting was coming from.
Witnesses for the prosecution included Sunrise Police Lt. Craig Cardinale, who testified that Peterson would have seen dead bodies in the school if he had opened the door.
“I immediately opened the door,” Cardinale testified for the prosecution earlier this month. “About 25 feet in front of me there were a couple bodies on the floor in clear sight.”
One month after the shooting, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video that showed Peterson ushering students away from the building before getting in a golf cart with another person and driving away from the building, and then circling back.
“Get the school locked down, gentlemen!” Peterson shouted at one point during the incident, police radio recordings revealed. The former deputy could also be heard telling other officers to stay away.
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building. Stay at least 500 feet away at this point,” he said on the police radio minutes after the shooting had stopped and students and staff were dying.
The other person seen on the golf cart was Kelvin Greenleaf, an unarmed school security supervisor who testified last week that Peterson “had a blank look on his face.”
“It was so much going on and I could imagine the stress, the pressure he was on,” Greenleaf testified.
In a statement to HuffPost at the time of its release, the sheriff’s office said the surveillance video of Peterson “speaks for itself.”