A Florida jury will quickly resolve if a former police officer must be convicted of crimes for failing to confront the gunman who killed 17 individuals and wounded 17 others at a Parkland highschool 5 years in the past.
The trial, which incorporates costs of kid neglect, is regarded as the primary within the nation in opposition to a member of legislation enforcement for inaction in a faculty capturing.
Throughout closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors requested jurors to carry Scot Peterson, a 60-year-old former sheriff’s deputy, accountable for standing by in the course of the Feb. 14, 2018, bloodbath at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty, when he was the college’s solely armed useful resource officer.
“Each scholar and each instructor on the third flooring was nonetheless alive” when Mr. Peterson reached the constructing being focused by the gunman, mentioned Kristen Gomes, an assistant state lawyer for Broward County. “And Scot Peterson selected to run.”
Mark Eiglarsh, Mr. Peterson’s protection lawyer, countered that Mr. Peterson didn’t know the place the photographs have been coming from or what number of shooters there have been, and mentioned that he had acted by calling a schoolwide “code pink.” Mr. Eiglarsh additionally argued that his consumer was scapegoated by the Broward Sheriff’s Workplace, which faced intense scrutiny after the shooting.
Mr. Eiglarsh pointed to a photograph of the gunman. “We’re right here due to that monster,
” he mentioned, including, “He did it.”
By charging Mr. Peterson, prosecutors introduced a novel authorized strategy to the query of what society expects of legislation enforcement officers, and the result of the trial might have results properly past Florida. For instance, there are investigations into the police in Uvalde, Texas, the place officers waited more than an hour earlier than coming into two lecture rooms at Robb Elementary Faculty throughout a Might 2022 capturing through which 21 individuals have been killed.
By his personal account to investigators, Mr. Peterson arrived at what was generally known as the 1200 Constructing, drew his handgun and took cowl within the alcove of a stairway of an adjoining constructing. He mentioned he heard solely two or three photographs — although about 70 have been fired throughout that point — and he directed different officers away from the place the gunman was firing his semiautomatic rifle.
Mr. Peterson faces seven felony youngster neglect costs and three misdemeanor costs in relation to deaths and accidents on the third flooring of the constructing, which prosecutors argued he had an opportunity to cease. He additionally faces a perjury cost; prosecutors claimed that he lied to the police when he mentioned he heard just a few gunshots and noticed no youngsters fleeing.
The capturing lasted less than seven minutes; Mr. Peterson arrived exterior the 1200 Constructing a bit of greater than two minutes in, earlier than the gunman made his approach to the third flooring. Mr. Peterson backed away after which remained in the identical place for greater than 45 minutes, lengthy after the capturing had stopped.
The jury of three girls and three males began deliberations two and a half weeks after the trial in opposition to Mr. Peterson started. He didn’t testify.
For Mr. Peterson to be convicted of kid neglect, jurors should discover that he was legally a “caregiver,” which Florida legislation defines as a “mum or dad, grownup family member or different particular person accountable for a kid’s welfare.” They need to additionally decide whether or not he made an inexpensive effort to guard the kids and whether or not his actions induced hurt.
The utmost doable punishment for the fees is 96 years in jail. But when convicted, Mr. Peterson is unlikely to face such a harsh sentence as a result of he has no prior prison file. He might lose his $104,000 annual pension.
Mr. Peterson retired after the capturing and was then retroactively fired. He later moved to North Carolina.
The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty scholar, was sentenced to life in prison final yr after a three-month sentencing trial. Prosecutors had sought the dying penalty.
Killed in the shooting were Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Scott Beigel, 35; Martin Duque, 14; Nicholas Dworet, 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Christopher Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto, 14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Peter Wang, 15.
Throughout closing arguments on Monday, Mr. Peterson repeatedly shook his head as prosecutors spoke. Sitting within the downtown Fort Lauderdale courtroom have been Mr. Peterson’s spouse and several other victims’ households.
The protection referred to as as witnesses college students and academics who have been within the adjoining constructing and who testified that sounds echoed, making it troublesome to pinpoint the gunshots’ origin. Cops described poor radio communications and widespread confusion.
“I had no thought the place the photographs have been from,” mentioned Arthur Perry, a sheriff’s deputy who was a faculty useful resource officer at a close-by elementary faculty and raced to the highschool. “They undoubtedly appeared like they have been exterior.”
Prosecutors referred to as survivors who have been significantly injured on the third flooring. They performed movies of the capturing and had health workers describe autopsies. The top of a coaching unit testified that Mr. Peterson had acquired coaching to confront a gunman.
The detective who led the investigation into the bloodbath, John Curcio, wept when a prosecutor requested what Mr. Peterson’s goal ought to have been because the gunman attacked.
“The objective is to cease him from killing individuals,” Mr. Curcio mentioned. “Something so that youngsters can discover security.”