The day of reckoning has come for a former Broward County sheriff’s deputy, Scot Peterson, accused of remaining passive during the devastating 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. As the trial finally kicks off, if convicted, Peterson could face a staggering 96 years in prison.
Peterson was serving as the school resource officer during the tragic shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. Even as the violence unfolded, Peterson reportedly never entered the building, where 17 students and staff members ultimately lost their lives. His alleged failure to act earned him the moniker, the “Coward of Broward”.
Now, Peterson finds himself on trial facing 11 criminal charges, including seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury. If found guilty on all accounts, Peterson, who has since been relieved of his duties, could face a maximum sentence of 96 years.
During the state’s opening arguments on Wednesday, Peterson appeared visibly moved, shedding tears as prosecutor Steven Klinger detailed the horrific events of that fateful day. According to prosecutors, Peterson chose to retreat to a position of personal safety during the shooting, ignoring his duty to safeguard the students and staff of the high school.
Peterson’s defense attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, however, painted a different picture. He portrayed Peterson as a scapegoat in the fallout from the tragedy, claiming that his client couldn’t respond effectively as he didn’t know where the shots were coming from. Eiglarsh contended that the evidence will show his client was “thrown under the bus.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, after Peterson’s arrest in 2019, accused him of doing “absolutely nothing” to help prevent the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that claimed the lives of 17 and injured 17 others.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was also removed from office by the Florida Senate. As for the perpetrator of the massacre, Nikolas Cruz, he was sentenced last year to life imprisonment, just narrowly avoiding the death penalty.
As the trial unfolds, it provides a sobering reminder of the grave responsibility that law enforcement officers carry in ensuring the safety and security of our society.