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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Josh Salisbury

Parkland shooting: US officer cleared of failing to protect students in 2018 Florida high school massacre

A Florida police officer has been cleared of failing to protect students during the 2018 Parkland massacre, the deadliest high school shooting in US history.

Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson wept as the verdicts were read in the first trial ever brought in the US of a police officer for conduct during an on-campus shooting.

Seventeen students and staff were murdered and others left injured when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.

Mr Peterson had insisted that he would have confronted the shooter Nikolas Cruz, but he didn’t know where the shots were coming from because of echoes.

Speaking as he left the courtroom flanked by his wife, he said: “I got my life back. We’ve got our life back. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for so long.

“Only one person was to blame and it was that monster (Cruz).

“It wasn’t any of the law enforcement who was on that scene. ... Everybody did the best they could with the information we had.”

A memorial at the site of the 2018 Florida school shooting (AP)

The former officer said nobody would forget the victims and that he hoped to one day sit down with Parkland parents - some of whom have accused him of cowardice.

Two fathers who watched the verdict, Tony Montalto and Tom Hoyer, said they believed Mr Peterson knew Cruz’s location, but put his safety ahead of the students’ and staff’s.

Mr Montalto’s 14-year-old daughter Gina was killed in the shooting, while Mr Hoyer’s 15-year-old son Luke was also murdered.

Mr Peterson was not charged in connection with their deaths because they happened before he reached the building.

Asked about the possibility of meeting with the former officer, Mr Montalto said: “No. No. Bring me my daughter back … Why do we need to talk to this failure? He didn’t do the right thing. He ran away.”

Mr Peterson had been charged with failing to confront the shooter during his six-minute attack inside the three-story 1200 classroom building.

His charges were in connection to the six killed and four wounded on the third floor, who were shot more than a minute after he approached the building.

Prosecutors called students and teachers to give evidence as well as a training supervisor who testified Mr Peterson did not follow protocols for confronting an active shooter.

But the defence called several other officers who arrived during the shooting who testified they did not think the shots were coming from the building.

The 24-year-old shooter, who was 19 at the time of the murders, was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year.

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