PARKLAND, Florida — Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community welcomed news of criminal charges for a former school resource officer accused of neglecting his duties the day 17 people were killed on his watch.
Scot Peterson has faced intense criticism for his actions during the February 14 school shooting. Footage showed him taking position outside a building while gunfire erupted inside. Peterson’s lawyer has said he believed the gunshots were coming from outside the building.
Now, Peterson faces charges including felony child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury in connection with the deadly shooting, and the victims’ relatives are making no secret of their pleasure.
“I have no comment except to say rot in hell Scott Peterson. You could have saved some of the 17. You could have saved my daughter. You did not and then you lied about it and you deserve the misery coming your way,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting.
Ryan Petty, father of 14-year-old victim Alaina Petty, called the charges “another step in the search for accountability.”
“Peterson failed in his duty to protect lives that day, standing behind a cement pillar for 48 minutes while students and teachers were slaughtered,” he said.
Hunter Pollack, the brother of Meadow Pollack, called the charges “a huge victory.”
“He cowered in Parkland while my sister died defenseless and lied about his failure to confront the shooter. I hope he spends the rest of his life in prison.”
Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo III, has said it’s a “gross over-simplification” to characterize his actions as cowardly.
Stoneman Douglas teacher Greg Pittman said the news was a relief to the community.
“He needs to go under jail. Everyone will be happy. He completely neglected his duty to save himself, and everyone else without a gun ran in.”
Kai Koerber, a survivor of the shooting who graduated Sunday, said the charges reflect both the alleged failings of Peterson and the sheriff’s department.
“We need to make sure that our first responders are ready to put their lives on the line to save the lives of others. The job of the police is to protect and serve, and when they fail to protect the public, they are serving no one,” he said.
“This is why we must see to it that our first responders are trained to deal with tragic circumstances and restore balance and peace in the world around them; they must have the mental health resources that will allow them to maintain a state of mental balance no matter what they face,” he said.
“The charges that former SRO Peterson faces right now result from both his failure to protect my peers, and the sheriff department’s failure to provide these officers with continuous active shooter and mental health training.”