Florida MP accused of failing to confront shooter’s speeches


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A fired Florida sheriff’s deputy charged with failure to confront The shooter who murdered 17 people at a Parkland high school five years ago said Monday he was looking forward to his trial, which is scheduled to begin next week.

Former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson told reporters after a court hearing that the public needed to know that he did everything he could when Nikolas Cruz killed 14 students and three associates of Marjory Stoneman on February 14, 2018 Douglas High School murdered.

Peterson, the school’s second-in-command at the time, says he did not burst into the three-story classroom building during the six-minute massacre because he thought the dozens of shots were coming from outside. He was armed with a pistol at the time.

The parents of some of the victims referred to Peterson as “the coward of Broward.” Released on bail, he now lives in North Carolina and could face nearly a century in prison if convicted.

“I want the truth to come out, and if it’s going to happen through a process, then so be it. I’m excited,” Peterson said. “Not only the people of Florida, the country, especially the families, they need to know the truth of what happened because unfortunately it has never been brought to light.”

Peterson, 60, is charged with seven counts of child neglect and three counts of gross negligence over the ten people Cruz shot dead on the third floor, six of them fatally, after Peterson arrived at the building. The former deputy will not be charged in connection with the 11 dead and 13 wounded on the first floor before he got there.

Prosecutors say Peterson’s behavior shows he knew the shooting was from within and that he could have prevented some of the shootings if he had confronted Cruz, who was armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle .

Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said there were 22 defense witnesses who would testify that they, too, thought the shots came from somewhere other than the classroom building.

“He’s not the only one who heard those shots and thinks they came from somewhere else,” Eiglarsh said.

Peterson retired shortly after the shooting, was fired retrospectively, and was charged a year later.

The selection of the jury is scheduled to begin on May 31, with the opening speech in early June. The process could last until August.

During Monday’s hearing, Circuit Judge Martin Fein denied Eiglarsh’s request to postpone the trial to August. The attorney said some of his witnesses had furloughs and other conflicts and said they would not appear. Fein said if the witnesses were subpoenaed, they would have no choice.

The judge also expressed skepticism about the prosecution’s request to have the jury tour the blood-stained halls of the classroom building That’s what Cruz’s jury did last year during his criminal trial. The building has been maintained and sealed for days after the shooting and is scheduled to be demolished after Peterson’s trial.

Prosecutor Steven Klinger told the judge that the jury needed to see the clearances inside the building. But Fein appeared to agree with Eiglarsh, who says there is enough video and photo evidence to support the distances and that a tour of the building by the jury would only fuel their emotions. Fein said he would issue his decision later.

However, it is likely that Jury will be taken to the school to view the outside area where Peterson stood during most of the attack.

To reach a conviction, prosecutors must convince the jury that Peterson knew the shooter was firing inside the building and that his actions and inaction caused more victims.

Security video shows that 36 seconds after the attack began, Peterson exited his office about 100 yards (92 meters) from the building and jumped into a cart with two unarmed civilian security guards, a state report said. A minute later they arrived at the crime scene.

Peterson got off the car near the east door on the first floor of the classroom building and led to the first floor hallway while the gunman was at the other end firing numerous shots.

Peterson, pistol drawn, did not open the door. Instead, he took shelter outside next to a neighboring building.

“It was so loud and so close. I thought it was probably outside,” Peterson told investigators two days after the shooting.

He said he heard “two, three” gunshots, although security forces told investigators they heard many more, clearly coming from inside the building.

Inside, Cruz climbed to the upper floors of the building and fired about 75 more shots over the course of nearly four minutes.

Cruz pleaded guilty to the 2021 murders, but the jury in his criminal case couldn’t unanimously agree that he deserved a death sentence. The 24-year-old former Stoneman-Douglas student was instead sentenced to life imprisonment.

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