The school resource officer accused of hiding during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida broke down outside of court Wednesday saying: ‘I did the best I could’.
Scot Peterson, 58, is charged with multiple counts of child neglect for allegedly failing to protect students as gunman Nikolas Cruz made his way through the school on February 14, 2018, ultimately killing 17 students and staff. Seventeen others were wounded.
He was in court Wednesday as his lawyer argued to dismiss the child negligence charges filed against him.
‘I didn’t do anything there to try to hurt any child there on the scene,’ Peterson told the South Florida SunSentinel Wednesday in a Broward County courthouse hallway, fighting back tears.
‘I did the best that I could with the information. I did the best … I’ll never forget that day. You know, not only kids died, I have friends that died. And never for a second would I sit there and allow anyone to die, knowing that animal was up in that building! Never!’
The former resource officer’s comments were reportedly made in response to an attempted complaint about the speed of the case from the family of shooting survivor Anthony Borges.
Ex-cop Scot Peterson broke down outside of court Wednesday and defended his actions on the day of the Parkland high school mass shooting. He said: ‘I did the best I could’
Peterson’s comments came in response to an attempted complaint from the family of shooting survivor Anthony Borges (pictured above showing his injuries to reporters on Aug. 9, 2019)
While Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein did not allow the Borges family to make a statement in court, Peterson acknowledged their concerns.
‘I don’t want anyone to think I don’t want him to say how he feels,’ he said. The newspaper claims Peterson did not want to ‘appear insensitive to the family’s plight’.
The former deputy is accused of breaking a law that specifically applies to caregivers. There is debate amongst lawyers about whether or not a school resource officer falls under the legal definition of the term.
His lawyer, Mark Eiglarsh, says there is not a ‘single case in the history of our criminal justice system where a school resource officer was charged under this statute’.
Eiglarsh, who read several Florida laws defining who is considered to be as caregiver during Wednesday’s hearing, said there is one statute broad enough to include the former officer and another that specifically excluded him.
Peterson was in court Wednesday (pictured) as his lawyer argued to dismiss the child negligence charges filed against him
‘This definition does not include the following persons when they are acting in an official capacity: Law enforcement officers,’ Eiglarsh read aloud.
However, prosecutor Chris Killoran argued: ‘School resource officers are inherently different from other law enforcement officers. This is a novel area. There is no specific case law on this.’
Peterson (pictured) is accused of breaking a law that specifically applies to caregivers. His lawyer says there is not a ‘single case in the history of our criminal justice system where a school resource officer was charged under this statute’
The prosecution also argued that, under certain circumstances, courts have included teachers, landlords, baby sitters and even a kidnapper in the definition of caregiver.
‘We said as a matter of law he should never have been charged under a neglect statute which holds responsible parents, teachers, kidnappers, babysitters — but not resource officers. It’s very clear in the statute that law enforcement officers do not apply,’ Eiglarsh told WPLG.
Fein has not indicated when he will rule on the case.
Meanwhile, gunman Nikolas Cruz, 22, faces the death penalty if convicted in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen people were slain and 17 others wounded in that shooting.
Cruz’s lawyers have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors are insisting that his fate be decided by a jury trial.
A trial date has not yet been scheduled amid delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the sheer scale of the case, which includes interviews by lawyers of several hundred potential witnesses.
Broward County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer set a series of hearings beginning next week for defense and prosecution motions to be considered. She also said Cruz’s attorneys should disclose soon whether they intend to pursue an insanity defense.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz (pictured at a July 14 pre-trial hearing) faces the death penalty if convicted in the massacre. On Tuesday, a judge rejected a motion by his lawyers claiming that intense media coverage jeopardizes his right to a fair trial
Seventeen people were slain and 17 others wounded in the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (Pictured: Students being evacuated from the school building on Feb. 14, 2018)
Defense lawyers said all but one of their mental health experts has examined Cruz but no announcement was made on the insanity issue. Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas student, had a well-documented history of mental problems prior to the shooting.
Additionally, on Tuesday Scherer rejected a motion by defendant Nikolas Cruz’s lawyers claiming that intense media coverage jeopardizes his right to a fair trial.
Scherer did not elaborate on her reasons for denial, saying she would detail them in a written order later.
Cruz’s lawyers contended that open hearings might publicly reveal inadmissible evidence that will never be heard at trial and that news coverage could otherwise create bias among jurors.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that pretrial hearings are presumed to be open in most circumstances and can be closed only when there are no alternatives available except moving the trial elsewhere in the state. Prosecutors insist the trial must take place in Broward County.