Florida school officer who hid during Parkland shooting to face charges

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Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson who was on duty during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018 and his lawyer Mark Eiglarsh (not pictured) appeared in court Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The former school resource officer accused of hiding during a South Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead said after a hearing Wednesday that he never would have sat idle if he had known people were being killed. (Rafael Olmeda/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The former school resource officer accused of hiding during a South Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead will have to convince a jury that he wasn’t criminally negligent, a judge ruled Thursday.

Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein declined to dismiss the child negligence charges against former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Peterson, 58, had worked as a school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time of the February 2018 shooting, has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors have said that Peterson failed to come to the rescue as Cruz was making his way through the school’s hallways. The law that Peterson is accused of breaking specifically applies to caregivers, but defense attorneys argued during a hearing Wednesday that a law enforcement officer doesn’t fit the legal definition of a caregiver.

Prosecutors are arguing that school resources officers are inherently different from other law enforcement officers and should be considered caregivers.

Fein ruled that a jury can decide whether a school resource officer should be considered a caregiver and noted that a jury instruction will be included to that effect.

Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted in the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre in which 17 people were slain and 17 others were wounded. Cruz’s lawyers have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors are insisting that his fate be decided by a jury trial.

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