Opening statements began Wednesday in the trial of a former Florida school resource officer who stayed outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a deadly mass shooting unfolded inside.
Former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Scot Peterson faces 11 charges after waiting outside the high school in Parkland, Florida, as shots rang out inside on Feb. 14, 2018. Fourteen students and three staff members were killed, and 15 others were injured.
Peterson, 60, has maintained that he didn’t enter the building because he didn’t know where the gunshots were coming from. He faces charges that include seven counts of felony child neglect for four of the students who were killed that day.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Steven Klinger told jurors that as gunfire erupted, Peterson took a position in an alcove between two of the school buildings.
“The defendant will never leave that alcove while the shooter is in the building,” Klinger said, according to CNN.
Just a month after the shooting, the Broward Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video that showed Peterson ushering students away from the building before getting in a golf cart with another person and driving away from the building before circling back.
“Get the school locked down, gentlemen!” Peterson shouted at one point during the incident, police radio recordings revealed. The former deputy could also be heard telling other officers to stay away.
“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building. Stay at least 500 feet away at this point,” he said on the police radio minutes after the shooting had stopped and students and staff lay dying.
In a statement to HuffPost at the time, the sheriff’s office said the surveillance video “speaks for itself.”
Klinger told jurors that Peterson was ultimately in the alcove for about 48 minutes.
Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, told jurors he will call 22 witnesses to testify that they also did not know where the sound of gunfire was coming from.
Eiglarsh added that the only person to blame for the killings was the shooter himself, not Peterson.
Peterson “was not a coward,” Eiglarsh said.