The senseless murders that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, were – and continue to be – very tragic events.
On that day, a crazed gunman – whose name we will not even mention – stormed into the high school in Parkland, Fla., and killed 14 innocent teenagers and three adults. It was a massacre of major proportions that will affect those who survived and the family members who lost their loved ones for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully, the gunman was apprehended that day as he cowardly tried to blend in with fleeing students. He will face justice soon and pay for the innocent lives that he took.
After the shooting at the school, a lot of people questioned why the school resource officer, then-Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, didn’t enter the school once he heard the shooting but instead retreated to a position of safety. We wondered the same thing. At other school shootings, law enforcement moved in quickly to take out or detain the shooter before the perpetrator could kill more innocent students.
On Tuesday, Peterson was charged with 11 criminal counts related to his inaction during the shooting. Peterson is charged with child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury – allegations that carry a maximum prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
According to findings from a 14-month investigation, Peterson was seen on video surveillance rushing with two staff members toward the building where the shooting happened. When they arrived, he pulled his weapon and went forward but then retreated and took up a position outside, where he stood with his gun drawn.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said Peterson “did absolutely nothing to mitigate” the shooting. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Considering what we know from these findings – which involved interviewing 184 witnesses, reviewing hours of surveillance videos and compiling 212 investigative reports – one could easily agree with Swearingen’s statement. You can also ask how many lives could’ve been saved if in fact Peterson did the job he was hired to do: protect the students at that high school.
Peterson’s perjury charge stems from a statement he gave under oath to investigators contending that he did not hear any shots fired after taking up his position outside the school. Investigators determined through video, witnesses and other evidence that was not true.
Some would argue that Peterson is a coward who put his life before those he was supposed to be protecting. That is a question that should be decided by a jury. We do believe charges were definitely warranted against Peterson in this case.
If indeed he failed to take appropriate action and then lied about it, his sentence should be consistent with the seriousness of these charges.