Several parents of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre say that if former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson — who stood outside the school for several minutes while bullets rang out — had done his job, their children might not have lost their lives.
“I think Peterson is the lowest form of life available,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was gunned down on the third floor. “My daughter would be alive today if not for him.”
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel publicly criticized Peterson for his inaction during the shooting that left 17 dead and 17 more wounded, but didn’t fire the 54-year-old deputy, instead allowing him to resign. Local 10 caught up with Peterson outside his home in Boynton Beach, where he is living on his $100,000-a-year public pension. The deputy, who had yet to face any media, simply turned and hurried inside, saying only, “Get off my property.”
But now, a report that recently surfaced has some victims’ families calling for renewed investigation of Peterson for a case he handled four years to the day prior to the massacre. The case involved two 17-year-old students bullying a 14-year-old freshman, with one holding down the younger boy by his ankles while the other kicked the victim, grabbed his genitals and then took the victim’s own baseball bat and began shoving it against his buttocks, simulating rape, through the boy’s clothes.
One of those assailants, the boy who allegedly held down the victim, was Sheriff Israel’s own son, Brett. Defense attorney Alex Arreaza, who represents shooting victim Anthony Borges, who was shot five times in the Valentine’s Day shooting and survived, said the case could have led to felony charges.
“He could be charged with lewd and lascivious. I’m being conservative,” said defense attorney Alex Arreaza.
But, in the report, Peterson claims in the report that it was a “simple battery” under the board’s discipline matrix, and he decided to give both of the boy’s attackers a three-day suspension.
“What is that? Is that like an alternative universe law?” Arreaza said. “Because you’re in school? I don’t think it falls under any matrix.”
In fact, the disciplinary matrix includes “sexual misconduct” and “serious” battery, both of which, arguably, apply in this case. When asked if he believed the sheriff’s son received preferential treatment, Arreaza said, “You will never see somebody grabbing somebody’s crotch and poking somebody in the butt with a bat and get a simple battery for it.”
Guttenberg said the facts of the incident “infuriated” him.
“Scot Peterson failed to do his job again,” he said. “It’s just another example of a bad crime and somebody not being held accountable. It’s kind of interesting the intersection of the same people.”
For Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was also killed on the third floor at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the case appears to be another incident of undue leniency for students accused of crimes, much of it stemming from the controversial Promise program designed to keep minors out of jail. The school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, never faced any charges despite numerous incidents inside and outside of school, including one that led to a referral to the Promise program, which Superintendent Robert Runcie claimed Cruz had never been associated with.
Pollack also said he believed Peterson’s handling of the incident may have provided Peterson job security at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“[Peterson] was lazy and this could have given him protection to keep his job at the school during those four years,” said Pollack.
In a written statement, Borges’ father, Royer Borges, said, “Maybe if Deputy Peterson would have been made to answer for this he may have been replaced by a more competent deputy,” and “If this wouldn’t have been the sheriff’s son, would a sexual assault have been reduced to a simple battery?”
Peterson noted in his report that the victim’s parents were notified of the discipline and “did not request additional law enforcement action.” The mother of the victim confirmed this to Local 10, saying the family members only wanted to put the matter behind them and had made peace with the sheriff and his son. Israel didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from Local 10.
Both Borges and Guttenberg said they believe the Peterson’s handling of the assault should be investigated.
“We should know the facts and the details,” said Guttenberg. “I don’t care if it was four days ago or four years ago. If people didn’t do their job and they failed in their responsibilities it should be investigated.”
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