Florida judge finds former Parkland deputy had a legal duty to protect Stoneman Douglas students and staff
|Toronto Star 12 Dec 2018 at 11:18|
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.âThe only armed deputy stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School the day of Nikolas Cruzâs deadly rampage asked a Broward judge on Wednesday to find he had âno legal dutyâ to protect the students and faculty from harm.
The judge rejected his argument.
In a video frame grab from the Broward County Sheriffâs Office, Deputy Scot Peterson outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during his response to the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla.Â Â (BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF S OFFICE / The New York Times)
Scot Peterson, who resigned from the Broward Sheriffâs Office in late February and is accused of shirking his responsibility by hiding instead of confronting Cruz, wanted Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of Meadow Pollack, one of 17 people shot and killed in the Parkland school on Feb. 14.
âWe want to say he had an obligation, but the law isnât that,â said Petersonâs lawyer, Michael Piper. âFrom a legal standpoint, there was no duty.â
Englander Henning saw it differently, finding Peterson had a duty to the school community as someone whose job was security and who had an âobligation to act reasonablyâ under the circumstances of the shooting.
The judge also found Peterson was not protected from the lawsuit by âsovereign immunity,â a legal doctrine that shields public employees from legal action based on their official conduct.
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Piper said he would appeal the ruling.
Peterson was not in court Wednesday for the hearing âin a separate motion he is asking the judge to keep Pollackâs father, Andrew, from attending a formal interview as part of the lawsuit. Pollack, who is also suing Cruz, the family that took him in two months before the shooting, and his mental health providers, sat at the plaintiffâs table during the hearing.
One of the lawyers representing Pollack expressed shock that Peterson would try to get out of the lawsuit.
âIt is inconceivable that anyone could advance the proposition that Scot Peterson had no duty to these people,â said attorney Joel Perwin. âThat is an absurd proposition. ... This was an abdication of responsibility when this (shooting) happened, and it is an abdication of responsibility now in this courtroom.â
Cruz is facing the death penalty if convicted of 17 counts of first-degree murder. He is also charged with 17 counts of attempted murder. On Tuesday he was formally charged with attacking a deputy and removing his stun gun at the Broward main jail, where Cruz has been housed since the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
After Englander Henning rejected the motion to dismiss, attorneys argued over the deputyâs effort to keep Andrew Pollack from attending his deposition. Piper argued that comments Pollack had made about Peterson online, while not explicitly âthreats,â were hostile and âunfriendly.â
Pollack posted a comment on a GoFundMe page Peterson established for his legal defence fund, asserting that âthe only thing we should help him with is which solid tree to hang a noose from.â
In a later interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Pollack acknowledged writing the comment and added, âHeâs not going to hide from me forever. One way or another, heâs going to sit across from me at that table.â
Piper cited that comment as further reason Pollack should not be permitted to attend Petersonâs deposition.
Englander Henning postponed Petersonâs deposition, originally scheduled for next Monday, but ruled that Pollack could attend it.