Watch CBS News

Parkland shooting sheriff's deputy Scot Peterson found not guilty on all counts

Ex-Parkland deputy found not guilty of inaction
Florida jury finds former deputy not guilty of inaction during 2018 Parkland massacre 02:01

Scot Peterson, a sheriff's deputy who was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but didn't confront the gunman during the deadly Parkland shooting in 2018, was found not guilty of child neglect and other charges Thursday. Peterson, now 60, was charged in connection with the deaths and injuries on an upper floor of the building attacked by gunman Nikolas Cruz.

Peterson was sobbing as the 11 not guilty verdicts were read in court. The jury had been deliberating since Monday.

Speaking to reporters after the proceedings, Peterson said he "got my life back."

"Don't anybody ever forget this was a massacre on February 14," Peterson said. "Only person to blame was that monster. ... We did the best we could with the information we had, and God knows we wish we had more."

Officer acquitted in Parkland shooting case says he’d “love to talk” to victims’ families 02:09

Asked what he had to say to the victims' families, some of whom praised authorities following his arrest, Peterson said he was open to meeting with them.

"I would love to talk to them," Peterson said. "...I know that's maybe not what they're feeling at this point. Maybe now, maybe they'll get a little understanding, but I'll be there for them."

Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina was killed on the first floor, said in a statement he had hoped for "some measure of accountability" from the jury.

"Peterson's failure to act during the shooting was a grave dereliction of duty, and we believe justice has not been served in this case," said Montalto, president of the school-safety reform group Stand with Parkland.

Peterson's attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, called the verdict a victory for every law enforcement officer in the country.

"How dare prosecutors try to second-guess the actions of honorable, decent police officers," Eiglarsh told reporters.

Scot Peterson, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school resource officer, reacts as he learns of his acquittal at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 29, 2023.
Scot Peterson, a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school resource officer, reacts as he learns of his acquittal at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 29, 2023. Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

Cameron Kasky, a Parkland student who has advocated for stricter gun control measures following the shooting, posted a headline about Peterson's acquittal on Instagram with his reaction to the verdict.

"Cops run away from shootings. They get away with it. There is no accountability for cops," Kasky wrote.

Peterson, the only armed school resource officer on campus when the shooting started, was charged in 2019, more than a year after the gunman killed 17 people in the Valentine's Day attack. The gunman is serving a life sentence without parole after a different jury in November couldn't unanimously agree to give him the death penalty.

Surveillance video showed Peterson didn't confront the gunman, and a public safety commission said he hid for about 48 minutes. Peterson wasn't charged in connection with the 11 people who were killed on the first floor before he arrived on the scene. Prosecutors argued Peterson could have tried to stop the gunman.

Thursday's verdict came more than a year after a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, went into an elementary school and killed 19 children and two teachers. Authorities were criticized for not acting sooner in response to that attack.

Peterson's lawyer rejected comparisons between his client and the response in Uvalde.

"In this case, he 100% didn't know precisely where the shots were coming from … you can't plausibly analogize his case to the others," Eiglarsh told reporters.

In the wake of Parkland shooting, Peterson retired from the Broward County Sheriff's Office, and he was retroactively fired in 2019.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.