Closing arguments in trial of Florida deputy charged with failing to arrest school shooter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday in the trial of a former Florida sheriff’s deputy charged with failing to confront the gunman who murdered 14 students and three staff at a Parkland high school five years ago.

Prosecutors and attorney for Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson spent his trial disputing what he heard, saw and knew during the six-minute attack inside a room three-story classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

Peterson, 60, is facing criminal child neglect and other charges for his alleged failure to confront former student Nikolas Cruz before the shooter reached the third floor of Building 1200, where six of the victims died . Peterson is not charged in the deaths of 11 people killed on the first floor before reaching the building. This is the first time a US law enforcement officer has stood trial for a school shooting.

Prosecutors, during their two-week presentation, called students, teachers and law enforcement officers to the witness stand who testified to the horror they experienced and how they knew where. was Cruz. Some said they knew for sure the shots came from Building 1200. Prosecutors also called a training supervisor who testified that Peterson did not follow protocols for confronting an active shooter.

Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, during his two-day presentation called several deputies who arrived during the shooting and students and teachers who testified that they did not believe the shots came from the 1200 building. Peterson, who did not testify, said that due to the echoes he could not pinpoint the location of the shooters.

Eiglarsh also pointed to the failure of the sheriff’s radio system during the attack, which limited what Peterson heard from arriving deputies.

The jury will also have to decide whether Peterson was a “carer” of the underage students who died and were injured on the third floor – a legal requirement for him to be found guilty of child neglect.

Florida law defines a caregiver as “a parent, adult member of the household, or other person responsible for the welfare of a child.” Caregivers are guilty of criminal negligence if they fail to make a “reasonable effort” to protect children or fail to provide necessary care.

Security videos show that 36 seconds after Cruz’s attack began, Peterson emerged from his office about 100 yards (92 yards) from Building 1200 and jumped into a cart with two unarmed civilian security guards. They arrived at the building a minute later.

Peterson got off the cart near the east door of the first floor hallway. Cruz was at the other end of the corridor, firing his AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle.

Peterson, who was not wearing a bulletproof vest, did not open the door. Instead, he hid 23 meters away in the alcove of a nearby building, his gun still drawn. He stayed there for 40 minutes, long after the shooting had stopped and other police had stormed the building.

Peterson faces up to nearly 100 years in prison if convicted, although due to his clean criminal record, a sentence close to that is highly unlikely. He could also lose his $104,000 annual pension. He had spent nearly three decades working in schools, including nine years at Stoneman Douglas. He retired shortly after the shooting and was later fired retroactively.

Cruz’s jury could not unanimously agree that he deserved the death penalty. The 24-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student was later sentenced to life in prison.

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