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Former Parkland officer Scot Peterson says he’s ‘looking forward’ to his trial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A fired Florida sheriff’s deputy charged with failing to confront the gunman who murdered 17 people at a Parkland high school five years ago said Monday he was “looking forward” to his trial , which is expected to begin next week.

Former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson told reporters after a court hearing that the public should know he did everything he could when Nikolas Cruz murdered 14 students and three Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff members on February 14, 2018.

Peterson, the deputy then assigned to the school, says he did not charge into the three-story classroom during the six-minute massacre because he believed the dozens of gunshots were coming from the ‘outside. He was then armed with a handgun.

Relatives of some victims called Peterson a “coward of Broward”. Released on bail, he now lives in North Carolina and faces nearly a century in prison if convicted.

“I want the truth to come out and if it goes through a trial, so be it. I can’t wait,” Peterson said. “Not only the people of Florida, the country, and especially the families, they need to know the truth about what happened, because unfortunately it was never told.”

Peterson, 60, is charged with seven counts of child neglect and three counts of culpable neglect for the 10 people Cruz shot on the third floor, six of them fatally, after Peterson arrived at the building. The former deputy is not charged for the 11 killed and 13 injured on the first floor before his arrival.

Prosecutors say Peterson’s actions show he knew the shots were coming from inside and that he could have prevented some of the shootings had he confronted Cruz, who was armed with a semi-automatic type rifle. AR-15.

Peterson’s attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said there were 22 defense witnesses who would testify that they also believed the shots came from somewhere other than inside the classroom.

“He’s not the only one who heard these gunshots and believed they were coming from a different place,” Eiglarsh said.

Peterson retired shortly after the shooting, was fired retroactively and charged a year later.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin May 31 with opening statements in early June. The trial could last until August.

At Monday’s hearing, Circuit Judge Martin Fein denied Eiglarsh’s request to postpone the trial until August. The lawyer said some of his witnesses had vacations and other conflicts and said they would not appear. Fein said if witnesses are subpoenaed, they have no choice.

The judge also expressed skepticism about the prosecution’s request to give jurors a tour of the classroom’s bloodstained rooms, which Cruz’s jury did during his penalty trial last year. The building has been maintained and sealed for days after the shooting and is expected to be demolished after Peterson’s trial.

Prosecutor Steven Klinger told the judge that jurors needed to see the distances inside the building. But Fein seemed to agree with Eiglarsh, who says there is enough video and photo evidence to demonstrate the distances and that showing jurors around the building would only inflame their emotions. Fein said he would make his decision later.

It is likely, however, that the jury will be taken to the school to see the outside area where Peterson stood for most of the attack.

To secure a conviction, prosecutors must convince jurors that Peterson knew the shooter was shooting inside the building and that his actions and inaction exposed more victims to harm.

Security videos show that 36 seconds after the attack began, Peterson left his office about 100 yards from the building and jumped into a cart with two unarmed civilian security guards, according to a state report. They arrived at the scene of the crime a minute later.

Peterson exited the cart near the first floor east door of the classroom building toward the first floor hallway while the shooter was at the opposite end, firing numerous shots.

Peterson, his handgun drawn, did not answer the door. Instead, he hid outside next to a nearby building.

“It was so loud and so close. I thought it was probably outside,” Peterson told investigators two days after the shooting.

He said he heard “two, three” gunshots, although security guards told investigators they heard many more, clearly coming from inside the building.

Inside, Cruz climbed to the upper floors of the building, firing approximately 75 more shots in nearly four minutes.

Cruz pleaded guilty to the 2021 murders, but the jury in his penalty trial could not unanimously agree that he deserved a death sentence. The 24-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student was instead sentenced to life in prison.

nbcnews Gt

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