Former Florida officer charged for inaction during Parkland school shooting | News | DW | 05.06.2019
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Former Florida officer charged for inaction during Parkland school shooting

The Florida deputy who was on duty during a deadly shooting at a Parkland high school has been arrested. The charges against him relate to his inaction during the massacre that killed 17 people.

A former Florida sheriff's deputy was arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges on Tuesday for his lack of response to the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead.

Scot Peterson, 56, who was taken into custody, faces multiple counts of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury, Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz said in a statement.

The charges carry a combined maximum prison sentence of nearly 97 years, he said.

Peterson, a Broward County deputy, was on duty as a school resource officer when a gunman entered the school building in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, and opened fire.

The perpetrator, Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time and had been expelled from the school, was charged with the murders and is currently awaiting trial.

According to the sheriff's office and surveillance video footage, Peterson never went inside during the shooting.

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Peterson did 'nothing' to stop shooting

Peterson was seen on surveillance video rushing with two staff members toward the building where the shooting happened.

When they arrived, he pulled his weapon and moved forward but then retreated and remained outside, where he stood with his gun drawn.

The charges come after a 14-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which conducted interviews with 184 witnesses, reviewed hours of surveillance footage and compiled 212 investigative reports, the agency said.

Peterson "did absolutely nothing to mitigate" the shooting, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement. "There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives."

Read more: 8 facts about gun control in the US

'Police officers are not caregivers'

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, told Reuters news agency that although the law enforcement community is upset with how Peterson handled the incident and the damage to its reputation, his failure to act was not criminal.

"What concerns me ... is we are setting a dangerous precedent by coming after law enforcement," he said. "In the future, if we don't break up a fight in a school, will that be negligent? When does it stop?

"You have to be considered a caregiver to be charged with neglect, and police officers are not caregivers, we are first responders," Bell said.

Peterson faces wrongful death lawsuit

Peterson is also facing a case in civil court. In May 2018, Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Peterson.

Pollack's son, Hunter, said on Twitter that he hoped Peterson spends the rest of his life in prison.

"He cowered in Parkland while my sister died defenseless and lied about his failure to confront the shooter," he said.

law/sms (AP, Reuters)

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