This story was updated at 7:45 p.m.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has arrested former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson for his inaction during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland last year, which left 17 dead and 17 others injured.
Charges include seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
“The FDLE investigation shows former Deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD 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.”
Peterson was booked into the Broward County Jail, and his bond has been set at $102,000. If he meets bond, he would have to wear a GPS bracelet, forfeit his passport and would be barred from possessing any firearms, said Broward County State Attorney Mike Satz in a statement. If convicted of all 11 charges, the technical maximum Peterson would be facing is 96 and a half years in state prison.
Peterson's attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, called the charges "spurious" and suggested his client was being used as a "scapegoat" for the massacre in a statement released Tuesday night.
"The State’s actions appear to be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution against Mr. Peterson as no other individual employed at the Broward Sherriff’s Office or Marjorie [sic] Stoneman Douglas High School has been criminally charged," DiRuzzo said.
In a meeting for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Tuesday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, people in the audience, including family members of victims, audibly cheered "Yes!" when the announcement was made. The powerful commission was created by the Legislature to investigate what went wrong leading up to and on Feb. 14, 2018.
"I never thought that he would be charged, so I'm extremely happy," Max Schachter said at the commission meeting. He lost his son, Alex, in the shooting.
"I know that he could have gone in that building. He couldn't have saved my little boy, my Alex was already gone by the time he arrived, but I know that if he had gone in, he could have saved those six people that died on the third floor and the four kids that were shot and injured," Schachter said.
"I think it's absolutely warranted," Pinellas County Sheriff, and Stoneman Douglas Commission Chair, Bob Gualtieri, said of Peterson's arrest. "It's a great day - there's accountability for Peterson."
Though, Gualtieri said Peterson is an outlier compared to other law enforcement officers that did try to stop the shooting on Feb. 14.
"What he didn't do is so far off the charts... none of us should be measured by Scot Peterson," he said.
Fired For 'Neglect Of Duties'
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony announced that he formally fired Peterson and Sergeant Brian Miller, who were both found to have “neglected their duties” by internal investigations at the office. Only Peterson was arrested.
The state commission's report found that Miller, the former sergeant, arrived in time to hear shots, but rather than taking command took time to put on his bulletproof vest and hid behind his car.
“We cannot fulfill our commitment to always protect the security and safety of our Broward County community without doing a thorough assessment of what went wrong that day,” Sheriff Tony said. “I am committed to addressing deficiencies and improving the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”
Tony was appointed Broward County Sheriff by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, after firing former Sheriff Scott Israel for his response to the shooting.
According to an investigative report from the commission, Peterson hid for nearly 50 minutes after the shooting began. That was even as officers from several other law enforcement agencies entered building 12, where the shooting took place, and attempted to track down Cruz, rescue surviving victims and evacuate students who had taken shelter in classrooms.
A lieutenant from a nearby police department spotted Peterson as he left his hiding place and described him as pacing back and forth and breathing heavily, according to the report. When the lieutenant asked Peterson who he was, Peterson responded: "I'm the SRO" — the school resource officer. The lieutenant then asked Peterson what was going on.
"I don't know," Peterson said, according to the testimony. "I don't know. Oh my God, I can't believe this."
Peterson has also been named in dozens of lawsuits filed by family members of victims. The lawsuits, filed in April, allege that Peterson "wantonly and willfully disregarded [Broward Sheriff's Office] policies and procedures" by not entering the school to find the shooter — "instead, waiting outside the school for an inordinate amount of time as the shots rang out inside." His attorney said the lawsuits "lack merit" and vowed to fight them "vigorously."
Last November, Peterson defied a subpoena and failed to show up to a meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.
State Sen. Lauren Book, a Broward County Democrat and member of the commission, said she was "outraged, disgusted [and] angry" that Peterson did not show for the November meeting. She said then he treated the commission's investigative process "like a joke."
"For him not to face these families, for him not to face this community shows what a coward he is, how pathetic he is," Book said.
This is a breaking news story. Please come back for updates.