Scot Peterson: Parkland ex-school cop who let 17 students die in shooting claims 'I did my best'
Scot Peterson tried to explain his role at the Parkland shooting: 'I did the best that I could with the information'
BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: "I did the best I could," said Scot Peterson, the ex-school resource officer accused of hiding during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, outside of court on Wednesday, news outlets reported on August 18.
As many as 17 students and staff members were shot to death after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. The nation has also seen a rise in gun crimes in recent months. According to reports, 687 people were injured or killed in police-reported gun violence through June 6, which is the most since 2000. Early this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a first-in-the-nation executive order declaring gun violence a 'disaster emergency'.
Peterson, 58, has been charged with numerous counts of child negligence for allegedly failing to safeguard pupils while gunman Nikolas Cruz walked through the school on February 14, 2018, killing 17 students and employees. A total of seventeen people were injured. He appeared in court on Wednesday, where his lawyer argued that the charges of child neglect against him should be dismissed.
Peterson told the South Florida SunSentinel, Wednesday, August 18, in a Broward County courthouse hallway, trying to hold back tears, "I didn't do anything there to try to damage any child there on the scene," the Daily Mail reported. "I did the best that I could with the information. I did the best ... I'll never forget that day. You know, not only kids died, I have friends that died. And never for a second would I sit there and allow anyone to die, knowing that animal was up in that building! Never!"
The former resource officer's remarks were purportedly made in response to a complaint from the family of gunshot survivor Anthony Borges regarding the case's speed. Despite the fact that Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein refused to allow the Borges family to speak in court, Peterson acknowledged their concerns. "I don't want anyone to think I don't want him to say how he feels," he continued. The newspaper claims Peterson did not want to 'appear insensitive to the family's plight". The former deputy is accused of breaching a law that applies only to carers.
However, lawyers disagreed on whether or not a school resource officer falls within the legal definition of the term.
According to his lawyer, Mark Eiglarsh, there has never been a "single case in the history of our criminal justice system" in which a school resource officer has been charged under this provision. During the August 18 hearing, Eiglarsh read several Florida statutes defining who is considered a caregiver, saying one was broad enough to include the former officer and another specifically excluded him, the Mail reported. There are seven counts of neglect and a perjury charge that Eiglarsh wants dismissed. He argued in the hearing that his client is not a caregiver — a parent, adult household member or teacher — and therefore shouldn’t be charged with child neglect.
"This definition does not include the following persons when they are acting in an official capacity: Law enforcement officers," he said. However, prosecutor Chris Killoran argued that this is a new field. "There is no specific case law on this."
"We said as a matter of law he should never have been charged under a neglect statute which holds responsible parents, teachers, kidnappers, babysitters — but not resource officers. It's very clear in the statute that law enforcement officers do not apply," Eiglarsh said to WPLG. Prosecutors argued that school resource officers are different from police officers, that they are tasked with securing school grounds, and that Peterson’s role was to protect kids.
Fein hasn't said when he'll make a decision in the case.