Case dismissed? Attorneys are calling for felony charges to be tossed out in the case of a former Florida sheriff’s deputy.
The case surrounds Scot Peterson and his failure to enter a school building while a gunman carried out a massacre.
According to his attorneys, prosecutors stretched the laws “beyond their breaking points” when they charged him last month with child neglect, culpable negligence, and perjury for his actions during and after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and 17 wounded.
Attorney Joseph DiRuzzo III wrote the filings last week. In them, he pointed that while Peterson was the deputy assigned to the school, he was not the students’ legal caregiver.
Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans? It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans – and of wounded officers. Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice. Check it out today.
He went on to say that the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s policy for confronting active shooters said deputies “may” enter a building, not “shall.”
There still hasn’t been a response from prosecutors.
In June, Sergeant Brian Miller of Broward County was terminated. He was previously suspended in 2018 over his response to the Parkland massacre.
The announcement was made by Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony and his department.
“Today, as a result of the continuing internal investigation and disciplinary process, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony officially announced the termination of two deputies who were found to have neglected their duties. The two are former Deputy Scot Peterson and Sergeant Brian Miller . The deputy and sergeant were found to have neglected their duties at MSD High School. They have been terminated and will no longer be privileged to serve as law enforcement deputies for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.”
“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.”
Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have now charged Peterson with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury after a 15-month investigation, the agency said.
“The Broward Sheriff’s Office and our first responders are now better prepared and trained to respond to an active shooter crisis. We have enhanced our active shooter response protocol, increased our training staff, introduced essential equipment, established training partnerships with federal organizations and are building a regional training center.”
“The FDLE investigation shows former Deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers and staff and injured 17 others,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a news briefing. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Peterson was investigated for his role, or lack thereof, in the events that transpired on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.
Video footage obtained from the high school showed Peterson standing around with another faculty member as Nikolas Cruz ruthlessly marched through the halls of the building, taking the lives of anyone in his path.
Investigators said that Peterson “refused to investigate the source of the gunshots, retreated during the active shooting while victims were being shot and directed other law enforcement who arrived on scene to remain 500 feet away from the building.”
Over two dozen lawsuits have been filed against Peterson by the parents of Parkland students.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was recently suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis following an investigation into the department’s ability to handle emergencies.
In Florida, perjury is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison $5,000 fine. Law Enforcement Today sources suggest charges of negligence won’t stick, given department policy at the time. With that said, perjury is something our sources say he should be extremely concerned about.
They say Peterson knew about “single officer response” after attending a number of school trainings about the approach.
Despite this, they say he still went public on television and denied responsibility.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office, 17th Judicial Circuit will prosecute.
A few weeks later, two more deputies from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office were fired for “neglect of duty” during their response to the deadly Parkland school shooting last year.
Sheriff Gregory Tony announced that the law enforcement officials were terminated following an internal affairs investigation surrounding the department’s handling of the active shooter scenario.
Deputies Edward Eason and Josh Stambaugh were identified as the terminated employees. They join the list of officers who were fired due to their alleged failure to appropriately react in a life-threatening situation.
Sheriff Scott Israel was also removed from his position by Governor DeSantis.
“This was neglect of duty, and it was one of the most severe consequences as we lost 17 people,” Tony said about the terminated deputies.
So what actions led to their decision?
Stambaugh reportedly failed to run toward gunshots on multiple occasions to stop the shooter, according to the report.
“Stambaugh appeared to take cover over assisting deputies entering a possible hot zone,” the report noted based on videos from his body-worn camera. Stambaugh reportedly told an officer from the Coral Springs Police Department who was the building where the shots were being fired to “watch yourself” as he remained behind cover.
As for Deputy Eason, the report shows that he provided conflicting statements to investigators. It also claimed that instead of responding to the gunshots at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, he went to nearby Westglades Middle to put the school on lockdown. But during that time, Eason “never transmitted his actions,” and reportedly took nearly 20 minutes to check the doors to see if it was appropriately secured.
And not only that, Eason was also being investigated for his failure to report a 2016 tip that Nikolas Cruz had been making online threats about shooting up the school.
Other employees of the force were reportedly being investigated because of the incident, but accusations against those officers were found to be “non-sustained” and they will return to duty, Tony said.
These officers failed to “take timely action on the occasion of a crime when gunshots were heard in Building 12 or attempt to locate and confront the active shooter or determine the source of the gunshots.”
The investigation resulted in the firings Tuesday of Joshua Stambaugh and Edward Eason for “neglect of duty” during the shooting. Two other deputies, including Scot Peterson, had already been fired. https://t.co/HxFFxeLdW2 from @SamZTurken
— Madeline Fox (@maddycfox) June 26, 2019
Fox News reported that Cruz, 20, faces the death penalty if convicted in the shootings. His lawyers have said he will plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence but prosecutors have rejected that offer.