Meadow Pollack was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with plans to go to college when she was shot to death in the hallway on Feb. 14. Her father, Andrew Pollack, says after Meadow was shot the first time, she crawled over to a cowering freshman student to throw her arms around her, before the shooter repeatedly shot her in the back, killing both girls.
Now, Pollack has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit not just against Nikolas Cruz, the man accused of killing his daughter and 16 others that day, but against everyone the lawsuit says failed to stop him. That includes Scot Peterson, the school security officer who was widely criticized after surveillance footage revealed he did not go inside the school during the shooting rampage.
“I’m not interested in any money,” Pollack told the Sun Sentinel. “I just want to expose what a coward [Peterson] was and that he could’ve saved everybody on the third floor. I don’t want him to go anywhere in the country and not have people recognize what a coward he is.”
The lawsuit was filed in Broward County Circuit Court on Monday and seeks unspecified damages. It devotes more space to Peterson’s actions than to Cruz’s, saying a quote from Confucius — “To know what is right and to not do it is the worst cowardice” — perfectly “sums up Scot Peterson’s conduct.”
Two minutes after the shooting began inside the school’s Building 12, Peterson told the Broward Sheriff’s Communication Dispatch, “Be advised, we have possible — could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired, possible shots fired.”
He did not go inside the school after that. At 2:29 p.m., according to the lawsuit, a Coral Springs officer found him “in his safe position” outside the building as officers rushed the scene.
“The pusillanimous Scot Peterson remained safe in his position away from Nikolas Cruz, never once attempting to go inside Building 12 where the School Resource Officer knew the shooting was taking place, never once attempting to save a life, never once attempting to fire a single bullet at Nikolas Cruz,” the lawsuit says. “Rather, Scot Peterson waited and listened to the din of screams of teachers and students, many of whom were dying, and the blasts of Nikolas Cruz’s repeated gunfire.”
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel suspended Peterson and condemned his actions after the surveillance footage emerged, saying he was the only armed person on the school campus who could have intervened when the shooting started. Peterson retired shortly after his suspension.
Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo III, could not immediately be reached for comment, but he defended Peterson in February by saying his client didn’t go inside because he thought the gunfire was outside.
“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 in the statement. “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.”
The lawsuit also names the estate of Cruz’s mother, Lynda Cruz, who died in November 2017, and three mental or behavioral health centers, all of whom are accused of failing to provide Cruz proper treatment or services despite repeated signs of his mental health issues and aggressive behavior. James and Kimberly Snead, who allowed Cruz to live with them after his mother died, are sued for allegedly failing to adequately secure the guns Cruz owned, including the one he is accused of using in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
The suit details various missed signs that led up to the Feb. 14 shooting. In one example cited in the suit, Cruz posted an Instagram picture of himself with guns, “stating to the effect that he planned to ‘shoot up the school.’ A deputy responded to the house, found he had knives and a BB gun, and subsequently passed the information to Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the School Resource Officer.”
In another example, the lawsuit says a student reported to Peterson that Cruz had “cut himself and ingested gasoline in an attempt to kill himself.” After he was referred to Henderson Behavioral Health, the lawsuit says the agency told police Cruz “was not a risk to harm himself or anyone else” because he was on a treatment plan for ADHD, depression and autism.
The Florida Department of Children and Families, which is not a defendant, opened an investigation into Cruz, too, “calling him a ‘vulnerable adult due to mental illness,'” the lawsuit states. “The report notes that he plans to buy a gun, but ‘it is unknown what he is buying the gun for.’”
Lawyers for the Sneads, Lynda Cruz’s estate and the behavioral and mental health centers named in the lawsuit could not be immediately reached for comment.
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