Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Resource Officer Scot Peterson reacts as he is found not guilty on all charges at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, June 29, 2023. Defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh is at right. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

In a landmark case, Scot Peterson, a former sheriff’s deputy, was acquitted of charges related to neglect of duty during the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, located close to Miami. Peterson was the school’s assigned resource officer at the time of the tragic incident, which claimed the lives of 17 individuals and wounded 17 others, ranking it among the deadliest school shootings in the history of the United States.

The charges levelled against Peterson, now aged 60, included 11 counts encompassing culpable negligence, felony child neglect, and perjury. Despite remaining outside the premises during the entirety of the shooting, Peterson was found not guilty on all counts.

Overcome with emotion, Peterson broke down in tears in the Fort Lauderdale court as the verdicts were announced. In the aftermath, he expressed his desire to communicate with the parents of the deceased students, offering to provide them with his personal account of the tragic events.

However, the verdict has not pacified all affected parties. Tony Montalto, the father of Gina Montalto, a student who tragically lost her life during the incident, maintained his resentment towards Peterson, blaming him for his inaction during the crisis.

Peterson’s case is significant, as it marks the first instance in U.S history where a law enforcement officer has been indicted for failure to respond during a school shooting, as stated by the National Association of School Resource Officers. If convicted, Peterson was at risk of serving a sentence of up to 97 years in prison.

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