The school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “did nothing” to stop the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 people dead, a new lawsuit from a victim’s father alleges. Instead, the officer hid outside.
When gunshots started ringing out at the south Florida school that afternoon, the officer on duty outside, Scot Peterson, didn’t enter the building. Peterson later resigned from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office after heavy criticism — even from the president. His lack of action cost 18-year-old Meadow Pollack her life, the lawsuit, filed Monday by Meadow’s father, Andrew, argues.
“He [Peterson] let my daughter get shot nine times at point-blank range,” Pollack, whose daughter suffered nine gunshots in the back and head trying to protect a younger student, told the Miami Herald. “He had the opportunity to go in, and instead, let all those people get murdered.”
The lawsuit argues that the only person who could have stopped the mass shooting — and thus saved Meadow’s life — was Peterson, but he failed. Instead of entering the building during the shooting, Peterson hid between two concrete walls and called dispatch multiple times, according to the suit.
“Scot Peterson did nothing,’” the lawsuit alleges. “He had the opportunity and obligation to prevent the death of those innocent people, including Meadow Pollack, who was on the third floor of Building 12. But he let those innocent people die because he was a coward.”
After an earlier investigation, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department found that Peterson had violated police protocol and suspended him, but he ultimately resigned.
“I am devastated, sick to my stomach,” Boward County Sheriff Scott Israel said about Peterson’s actions at a news conference shortly after the shooting. “He never went in.”
The lawsuit also names the estate of the shooter’s late mother, a Parkland couple who housed the shooter, and three mental health centers that treated him, seeking damages from each of the defendants. Each of them knew the gunman exhibited problematic signs of violence — and even discussed his plans in some cases — but didn’t prevent him from carrying out the deadliest mass shooting since Sandy Hook, the suit alleges.
Peterson’s lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo was not immediately available for comment. In a statement in February, however, DiRuzzo said his client made all the right decisions under the circumstances.
“Let there be no mistake: Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” DiRuzzo said. “However, the allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue.”
Read the full lawsuit below:
Cover image: Pat Gibson holds a drawing of Meadow Pollack, a victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as she stands outside of the school as part of a nationwide protest against gun violence, Wednesday, March 14, 2018, in Parkland, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)