The devastating Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass-shooting in Parkland, Florida is a day that will live on in our minds and hearts forever. 17 people were killed and several more, including staff, were injured. Scot Peterson was an armed officer at the school. On that day, he retreated into safety instead of confronting the gunman. Due to this, he found himself being criminally charged with eleven counts of second- and third-degree felony neglect of a child and a second-degree misdemeanor of culpable negligence. Additionally, Peterson’s name was dragged through the mud and he was even nicknamed “The coward of Broward”. The charges filed against him are not the norm. Police officers are not usually held criminally liable for not protecting the public. In fact, child neglect is typically a charge given to parents, teachers, kidnappers, babysitters, etc., not law enforcement. However, prosecutors argue that Peterson is a school resource officer and is essentially considered a caregiver. In court, he told the judge that he did the best he could at the time.
“I didn’t do anything there to try to hurt any child there on the scene,” Peterson pleaded. “I did the best that I could with the information.”
Earlier this year, a Florida judge ruled that a case may proceed against Peterson. This case could have a rippling effect on whether school officers and other officers in general have a constitutional duty to protect children in similar situations.
If you have questions about neglect of a child and culpable negligence or how they may pertain to law enforcement, contact Michael B. Cohen for a free initial consultation to discuss your options and rights.