Parkland parents and survivors condemn acquittal of ‘coward’ school policeman over mass shooting response

Survivors and families impacted by the Parkland mass school shooting condemned a Florida jury’s decision on Friday to acquit Scot Peterson, a former school police officer who was accused of failing to prevent the 2018 massacre, which killed 17 people.

“Remember even when there ARE cops on campus doesn’t mean they will do a damn thing and when they don’t the system does NOTHING,” the activist David Hogg, a student at the time of the shooting, wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “The cop in Parkland like those in Uvalde wasn’t a good guy with a gun, he was a coward with a gun.”

“He was the only officer on campus with a gun while the defenseless were slaughtered,” Max Schachter, father of the slain Alex Schachter, added on Twitter. “He knew where the shots were coming from. He could’ve gone in to save them but he chose to run and hide. Not only was he a coward, but he instructed other officers to stay 500 feet away and not go in. Even after officers ran into the building he chose not to help or render aid to the victims. He stayed hidden behind a concrete pillar for 40 minutes and never ever went into the building.”

Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told reporters following the verdict that Mr Peterson “contributed to the death of my daughter.”

“His inaction contributed to the pain of our community,” he said. “We don’t understand how this jury looked at the evidence and made this decision.”

Peterson was charged with seven counts related to the shooting, including child neglect and cuplable negligence.

Prosecutors said that even though he was the first armed officer to arrive on the scene, the school police officer waited outside the building where the shooting was occurring for roughly 45 minutes and never confronted gunman Nikolas Cruz.

The former officer was dubbed by some as the “Coward of Broward.”

In his defence, the school deputy claimed he didn’t know where the shooting was coming from because of issues with his radio and the echo of gunfire. Testimony from students and law enforcement during the trial offered contrasting accounts, with some claiming the location of the shooter was clear and others saying it was hard to tell.

Mr Peterson wept in court as the not guilty verdict was announced, telling reporters, “I’ve got my life back,” as he exited a Florida courtroom. He also reportedly offered to speak directly with parents about what happened, according to The Washington Post.

Peterson celebrates the not guilty verdicts

(© South Florida Sun Sentinel 2023)

“If they need to know the truth of what occurred, I’m there for them,” he said. “I know maybe that’s not what they’re feeling at this point, but I’ll be there for them.”

The slow response to the shooting, as with similar law enforcement failures during the Uvalde shooting in Texas, contradicted the often-repeated claim that only armed school police can stop school shootings.

In fact, as The Independent reported, research shows that so-called school resource make no observable difference in stopping the severity of a given shooting, and sometimes make things worse.

Mr Peterson’s verdict is the latest disappointment for Parkland parents, who were dismayed when Cruz got life in prison rather than the death penalty.

As The Independent has reported, those tied to some of the most infamous mass shootings and terror attacks in the US have a range of views about capital punishment.

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