Whether you consider him a coward or not, the not guilty verdict in the Scot Peterson case has made one thing clear: America has completely given up on protecting our children from school shooters.
Just look at the police and armed security guards, who are no longer expected, as part of their job description, to put their own lives at risk to save innocent young people.
How should our nation look to the world?
In Peterson’s case, we have a 6’4″, 250-pound former deputy, with more than three decades in law enforcement, who stood by and did nothing when a lone gunman shot up the school. Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
Fourteen students and three adults died. Seventeen more were injured. The video shows Peterson hiding for 40 minutes, long after the shooter was apprehended.
On Thursday, a jury found him not guilty on all counts, including seven counts of child neglect.
“I got my life back,” Peterson said after the verdict.
Deaf Tone doesn’t begin to cover that statement. Tell that to the broken parents who sat in court for two weeks.
Whether you consider him a coward or not, the not guilty verdict in the Scot Peterson case has made one thing clear: America has completely given up on protecting our children from school shooters. (Pictured: Peterson found ‘not guilty’ last week.)
Here’s a 6’4″, 250-pound former sheriff’s deputy, with over three decades in law enforcement, who stood by and did nothing when a lone gunman shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. How should our nation be to the world?
But Peterson talked over and over again about how difficult this has been. — for him.
‘An emotional roller coaster’, he called it, filled with ‘endless nights’.
At one point during Peterson’s impromptu celebratory press conference, his lawyer uncharacteristically tearful and swaggering, his supporters erupted in cheers. The father of one victim, who was trying to speak to the media down the hall, drowned.
Such a lack of decorum and humility makes it all the more conceivable that Peterson also possessed a critical lack of professionalism.
Incredibly, just three months after the shooting, Peterson insisted on NBC’s Today show that his inaction it was not out of cowardice or fear.
“It wasn’t some, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into that building, oh, I don’t want to face someone in there,'” he said. ‘It wasn’t like that at all.’
Actually? What else could it have been, then? When your job is to use the loaded weapon strapped to your body for an event like this, why else would you be on a high school campus with the title of ‘school security officer’? What stopped him?
This is the key question.
At trial, Peterson said he didn’t go into the school building because he couldn’t tell exactly where the shots were coming from.
Though in a recorded 911 call, Peterson was also heard telling police to stay away and to stay at least 500 feet away.
And do you remember Uvalde? An army of police officers responded to an active shooter at Texas’ Robb Elementary last year, then were caught on video pacing the halls, using hand sanitizer, patting each other on the back, checking their phones as young children were murdered, as others hid under dead bodies, as desperate parents literally fought the police, unsuccessfully, to get inside.
Those officers had automatic rifles, bulletproof vests, and shields. They were much more protected than those little children. However, they did nothing.
And do you remember Uvalde? An army of police officers responded to an active shooter at Texas’ Robb Elementary last year, then were filmed pacing the halls, using hand sanitizer, patting each other on the back, checking their phones as young children were murdered.
Eleven-year-old Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself in the blood of a dead classmate to play dead, said it felt like three hours before police responded. It was actually 77 minutes.
Nineteen fourth graders and two teachers were killed.
Cerrillo later cried in an interview with CNN. Why not [the police] Forward?’ she asked. ‘Why didn’t they save us?’
A whole nation asked the same thing.
More than a year later, what are the consequences facing these nearly 400 members of the Texas police force? Almost nothing.
The school’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, was fired. However, he had the temerity to appeal his dishonorable discharge and won. His cowardice was, in effect, struck off the record, so he would have no trouble getting another job.
God forbid your life suffer more inconveniences.
A handful of other officers were fired or resigned. And the Texas Department of Public Safety has closed its investigation, keeping much of it hidden from public view.
A Justice Department investigation is underway, for all the good it will do.
Arredondo, like Peterson, maintained that it was not cowardice that prevented him from approaching the shooter. He told investigators that his strategy was to “contain” the gunman in the classroom.
“I know this is horrible,” Arredondo said earlier this year, “and I know it’s [what] our training tells us to do it, but we have it contained. There will probably be someone deceased in there, but we don’t need more here.
However, that is the exact opposite of what lifeguards are trained to do.
Eleven-year-old Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself in the blood of a dead classmate to play dead, later cried in an interview with CNN. ‘Why didn’t they save us?’ she asked. A whole nation asked the same thing. (In the image: the Uvalde policeman checks his phone).
They are told, per active shooter protocols, “to put themselves in harm’s way and show uncommon acts of bravery to save the innocent.”
We can’t even do that anymore.
What has become of courage, of sacrifice, of the so-called superiors?
We have gone from being a nation of uncommon valor, those brave firefighters who scaled the towers of the World Trade Center to their certain death, to cowering on street corners while little children suffer and die.
Sandy Hook should have prepared us for this. Even the shooting deaths of 20 six- and seven-year-olds were not enough to compel Congress, bought and paid for by the gun lobby, to act.
“First graders,” then-President Barack Obama said four years after the attack at a 2016 news conference, still visibly upset. “Every time I think about those kids, it makes me angry… We must all demand that Congress be brave enough to stand up… We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners, who cry with us every time this is happening and they feel their views are not being adequately represented, to join us in demanding better.’
The NRA, on the ropes like never before, came up with a retort: ”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Look how it turned out.
Four hundred armed guys couldn’t—wouldn’t—stop Uvalde’s murderer.
If we’re going to cede gun control and the safety of our children, can we at least hold the cowards to account?
How weak we have become. There is more outrage in the media over pronouns and beer endorsements than over school shooters and assault weapons.
The Peterson case is a metaphor for a very sick America today: one big shrug.
We have gone from being a nation of uncommon valor, those brave firefighters who scaled the towers of the World Trade Center to their certain death, to cowering on street corners while little children suffer and die. (In the image: Gunman stalks corridor in Uvalde).
The FBI implemented active fire protocols after Sandy Hook, but a large portion of US law enforcement seem to take these as light hints rather than emergency action, eventualities to constantly train rather than be caught off guard.
The Scot Peterson trial was the first in American criminal justice.
Unless we have a real reckoning, it won’t be the last.
Cowardice, legislative and practically, is apolitical. So is trust in those sworn to protect and defend.
As Broward County State’s Attorney Harold Pryor said after the Peterson verdict: “It’s not political to expect somebody to do their job.”