When a gunman opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the only armed deputy at the school stayed outside and away from the sound of gunfire while 17 students and staff were gunned down. Deputy Scot Peterson made national headlines when surveillance footage confirmed that he stood idly by outside the school while the shooting was taking place.
Peterson claims he had no duty to confront the gunman during the shooting but a parent of a 17-year-old victim decided to sue. Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, one of the 17 killed during the shooting, is suing Peterson for negligence. Peterson's defense argued that a sworn law enforcement officer with a badge and a gun had no requirement to go inside. The judge disagreed.
Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning ruled in favor of Pollack in a hearing to dismiss the lawsuit. Pollack said the idea that a sworn law enforcement officer with a badge and gun has no duty to protect the children inside the school made no sense. After the ruling, Pollack said, "Then what is he doing there? He had a duty. I'm not going to let this go. My daughter, her death is not going to be in vain."
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Michael Piper, who is representing Peterson, said he can understand why people are upset at his client's defense, but he said it is a matter of law that the deputy had no duty to confront the shooter. Sadly, it will come down to the department's policy which is written by lawyers and says deputies "may" confront an active shooter. It does not say "shall" confront an active shooter which is going to be a key point in the civil suite.
Police departments write their policy very carefully and leave just enough legal room for themselves to avoid being found liable in situations such as these. Piper said, "There is no legal duty that can be found. At its very worst, Scot Peterson is accused of being a coward. That does not equate to bad faith."
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission conducted an investigation into the shooting and released a 407-page draft of their report on Wednesday. The report highlights a number of failures by Broward County agencies and provided recommendations for avoiding mass shootings in the future.
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While liberals are screaming for more gun control, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission actually recommended that teachers should be allowed to undergo training and background checks to carry guns in classrooms. In fact, the commission not only recommended that teachers should be allowed to carry guns in classrooms, but they also voted 13-1 Wednesday in favor of recommending a new legislature to allow those teachers to be armed.
The report says it is simply not enough to have one or two police or armed guards on campus. The commission's chairman, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, said that most deaths in school shootings happen within the first few minutes of the shooting before officers have time to arrive.
"We know from the history of these things that the majority are stopped by school personnel," Gualtieri said. "People need to keep an open mind to it as the reality is that if someone else in that school had a gun it could have saved kids' lives."
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Other recommendations included in the report are requiring that all Florida public schools have single points of entry and that open gates be staffed. They also recommended that all classroom doors remain locked and that every district has active shooter policies and training for staff in place.
Commissioner Melissa Larkin-Skinner, the Florida chief executive officer for a mental health treatment group said, "I am extremely dismayed that the people around this table and behind the scenes are taking this much more seriously than Broward County. It makes me physically ill. ... I am sitting here and getting more and more pissed off by the minute."
The shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder, and 17 counts of attempted murder. Cruz's attorneys say that he would agree to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence instead of the death penalty being sought by prosecutors.
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