PARKLAND, Fla. — The former school resource officer criticized for his response to the Parkland school massacre is receiving more than $8,700 a month in state pension, Florida Department of Management Services spokeswoman Nina Ashley said Wednesday.
There are no charges or circumstances that would affect Scot Peterson’s pension, according to a March 28 department letter requesting local officials submit information pertaining to Peterson’s retirement benefits. However, two investigations into the police response to the February 14 shooting remain ongoing.
In the days after the massacre that left 17 students and staff members dead, Peterson came under fire for what some described as inaction once bullets began to fly through the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Senior Brandon Huff claimed he saw Peterson standing outside behind a stairwell wall, gun drawn “just pointing it at the building” as shots erupted from inside the school.
“He’s wearing a bulletproof vest … while school security guards, coaches pretty much, were running in shielding kids,” he said.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told CNN that video from outside the school corroborated Huff’s account. The sheriff said he was disgusted and demoralized by what he saw, while President Donald Trump called Peterson a coward, and said he “didn’t have the courage” to confront the shooter and “doesn’t love the children.”
Peterson responded, saying through his attorney that he thought the shots emanated from outside of the school, near the football field, and he responded in accordance with his training.
“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,” a statement from his lawyer said.
Personnel records indicated Peterson had stellar reviews before the shooting.
Peterson was initially suspended without pay, though Israel said he was eyeing Peterson’s termination, and the school resource officer resigned shortly thereafter.
In March, it was revealed that despite Peterson’s claims, he actually called in a report that he heard gunshots “by, inside the 1200 building,” according to dispatch audio of the incident. He also said some students believed they’d heard firecrackers by the football field.
Surveillance video from the school showed Peterson positioned outside of the school, but didn’t offer much else in the way of details regarding his actions as confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz shot people inside.
About 18 months before the shooting, Peterson attempted to have Cruz involuntarily committed over mental health concerns. Two guidance counselors concurred with Peterson, but two mental health professionals nixed the prospect, saying the teen didn’t meet the criteria for involuntary committal.
The father of Meadow Pollack, one of the students who was killed, has included Peterson in a wrongful death lawsuit filed last month.
Tweeting a news story about Peterson’s pension, Andrew Pollack wrote that the money should go toward school security.
“He hid while my daughter and 16 others were slaughtered! How in the hell is he getting this?” he tweeted.
Fred Guttenburg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed at the school, tweeted his disgust with the news, saying, “This infuriates me in ways people cannot comprehend. My daughter would still be alive if this person did his job.”
Because Michael Satz, state attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit, which includes Broward County, declined to file charges against Peterson, there is no reason to deny Peterson his benefits, said Ashley, the Florida Department of Management Services spokeswoman.
In a March letter to Satz and Israel, Erin Rock, the secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services, wrote that there were neither charges nor circumstances that “would authorize the division to withhold pension benefits from Peterson.”
Peterson remains the subject of a Broward Sheriff’s Office internal affairs investigation, which Israel requested the week after the shooting. Gov. Rick Scott has also requested a state investigation into the law enforcement response to the shooting.
“The department will continue to monitor the ongoing investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and will continue to follow the law,” Ashley said.
The former deputy received his first monthly check of $8,702.35 in April, she said.