A former sheriff’s deputy accused of failing to protect students during a 2018 mass shooting at a US school has been acquitted by a Florida jury.
Gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and wounded another 17 when he opened fire at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February, 2018.
Scot Peterson, the school resource officer on duty, had been charged with 11 counts of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury.
The 60-year-old put his head on the table in front of him and sobbed with relief as the judge read aloud the “not guilty” verdict in court in Fort Lauderdale today.
The verdict spared him a prison sentence of 97 years.
After his acquittal, Peterson told reporters that he wanted to talk to the parents of the students who were killed, and that the victims should never be forgotten.
“If they need to really know the truth of what occurred…I’ll be there for them,” he said.
“Only one person was to blame and it was that monster.”
He also told reporters, as he exited the court with his arm around his wife: “I got my life back. We’ve got our life back.”
Peterson was armed but never went inside while the shooting was under way, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and surveillance video.
He is one of few law enforcement officers ever prosecuted for failing to take action or provide care.
Peterson did not testify in his trial, which lasted two and a half weeks.
A jury in October spared Nikolas Cruz from the death penalty, instead sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.