By Bryan Boggiano
Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School School Resource Officer Scottt Peterson was acquitted on all 11 criminal charges.
The jury found in Peterson’s criminal trial announced their verdict Thursday, finding him not guilty on seven counts of child neglect, three counts of child neglect, and one count of perjury. The first ten counts were related to casualties and injuries on the school’s third floor.
As the jury read their verdict, Peterson broke down in tears with his hands folded.
Peterson, 60, faced widespread criticism and condemnation after security footage from Feb. 14, 2018, showed him taking cover and staying outside of the 1200 Building while an armed assailant killed 17 students and staff and injured 17 others.
He retired after being suspended one week after the tragedy. Peterson was originally arrested and charged in June 2019.
The criminal trial began on June 7 and featured testimony from former students, teachers, staff, BSO, and Coral Springs police officers, among others. Peterson testified he did not know exactly where the shots were coming from, while the prosecution countered his lack of action enabled the tragedy to continue.
The defense rested their case on June 23, and the jury began deliberating on Monday. They announced the not-guilty verdict just after 3 p.m., after spending roughly 20 hours on deliberations.
Outside of the courtroom, Peterson told reporters, “I got my life back….This was a massacre on February 14. The only person to blame was that monster.”
Family members of the victims of the MSD tragedy slammed Peterson’s acquittal.
Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel and founder of the Scott J. Beigel Foundation, said in a statement she is disappointed in the trial’s outcome.
She said, “My son, Scott J. Beigel, did everything to save and protect lives. I guess Scot Peterson believes doing nothing is synonymous with doing no wrong. Evidence shows that if the SRO did engage, many lives would be saved. My son was a hero for saving the lives of his students and sacrificing his own. Although Peterson was found legally not responsible, he is morally responsible for my son’s death. My son did his job that fateful day.”
On Twitter, Fred Guttenberg posted a statement, saying, “My wife and I will move forward from this, but we will never have our life back, Jaime will never get her life back and Jaime will always be a victim of Scot Peterson’s failure.”
- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan plans to pursue geosciences at Florida International University for his master's. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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