Attorneys for former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson are looking to dismiss criminal charges against him stemming from his failure to enter Stoneman Douglas High School and confront the shooter during the 2018 attack that left 17 dead.
The reason for the motion? Peterson’s lawyers argue the blame lies with former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who was removed by lawmakers during proceedings last week.
The motion follows a warning from Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, that the removal of Israel could lead to such a motion. She raised those concerns as she voted to reinstate the suspended Sheriff.
Peterson was serving as the school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas on the day of the shooting. But Peterson failed to enter the school to confront the shooter after reports of gunfire.
That failure led to Peterson’s firing, though state law allows him to keep his pension. That is, unless he is found guilty of a felony.
Sure enough, an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) resulted in 11 charges including seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
Peterson’s inaction was also cited in the Governor’s Executive Order suspending Israel. In deciding Israel’s fate, the Senate leaned on the failure of Peterson and other BSO deputies to enter the school as they argued Israel’s tenure resulted in “institutional failures” at BSO.
In explaining her vote to keep Israel in office, Book said she was focused on the outcome of the Peterson case. If Israel was to blame for Peterson’s failure, Book argued, then perhaps that would absolve Peterson of liability for his actions.
“I believe that if we do not reinstate Sheriff Israel that Deputy Peterson walks, because you can’t have it both ways, members. You can’t have it both ways,” Book said last week.
It remains to be seen how Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fain will rule on the motion to dismiss. It’s entirely possible that the case against Peterson will proceed, Israel’s fate notwithstanding.
Book released a statement late Tuesday reiterating her remarks during the Israel proceedings.
“This is exactly what I warned against on the Senate floor,” Book said.
“As a result of wrongfully removing the Sheriff, the man second most culpable for the murder of 17 innocent individuals — a cowardly accomplice to murder — may walk free and receive his pension.”
Israel was ultimately removed by the Senate in a 25-15 vote.