Parkland police officer charged with neglecting children after staying outside during school shooting

A Florida police officer who did not go into the building as children were massacred in last year’s Parkland school shooting has been arrested and faces 11 criminal charges.

Scot Peterson, 56, was charged with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence, and one count of perjury.

The sheriff’s deputy was on duty during the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

State Attorney Mike Satz said the charges carry a combined prison sentence of up to 100 years.

The officer’s bail was set at $102,000. His lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nikolas Cruz, a former pupil at the school, could face the death penalty if convicted of killing 17 people, and injuring 17 others, in the attack,.

He has offered to plead not guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer. 

Nikolas Cruz in courtCredit:
Pool South Florida Sun Sentinel

Pupils at the school in Parkland, 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, hid under desks and in cupboards as the gunfire rang out.

Surveillance video was later released showing Mr Peterson, the police officer assigned to the school, taking cover next to a wall outside.

At the time Sheriff Scott Israel said: "The video speaks for itself."

A police investigation found the officer hid for nearly 50 minutes after the shooting began, and continued doing so when other officers arrived and went inside. He was later fired.

In a statement the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said: "Our investigation shows former Deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the shooting that killed 17 children, teachers and staff and injured 17 others.

"There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives."

At the time Donald Trump said: "He didn’t have the courage. He certainly did a poor job."

The officer has publicly stated that he did not know the shots were coming from inside the building, and was following his training by taking cover.

 "I never would have sat there and let my kids get slaughtered. Never," he said.

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