News and Blog

Why the Lawsuit Against the "Broward Coward" Will Probably Fail

Jun 25, 2018 5:00:58 PM / by Savannah Ashworth

Not long after the Parkland school shooting, surveillance video surfaced showing a Broward County officer calmly standing outside the school as a massacre took place inside. Many police officers and news outlets labeled him a coward. Scot Peterson resigned, but contends that even though he heard gunshots, he did not know a mass shooting was taking place.

Earlier this month, Peterson gave his first interview with Today:

When I heard those shots outside, I didn't even think that someone was inside the building,'' he said. "I never even thought that. I thought, 'There's shooting outside here. I don't know where it is.'''

Peterson maintained that after he received a report of "firecrackers" from a school monitor, he ran from his office and took up the position outside because he thought there was potentially a sniper inside Building 12 or in the parking area.

"It haunts me that I didn't know at that moment, you know, that — those are my kids in there," he said. "I never would have sat there and let my kids get slaughtered."

Nevertheless, in response to the video, a shooting victim’s father has sued Peterson for failing to do his duty. But the reason he probably won’t be found at fault is also one of the best reasons to own a firearm:

Although police officers have taken an oath and selflessly sacrifice themselves daily to protect us,
the United States Supreme Court has ruled that police have no legal obligation to protect you.

Naturally, police always want to protect you. This is why many of the most vocal critics of Peterson were police officers, including his own police chief.  For most, the reason they took the job in the first place is to risk their lives to prevent tragedies like the Parkland shooting.

But the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled on this question, most significantly in the 1975 case Warren v. District of Columbia. And it is one of the most disturbing stories in U.S. jurisprudence.


Horrifying Tale / Game-Changing Decision

A woman named Carolyn Warren and her four-year-old daughter were still asleep on the morning of March 16, 1975, when two men kicked in their Washington, D.C. apartment door. On the floor above her, two female roommates heard the crash, followed by screaming, and called police at 6:23am. Three cars were dispatched.

In most cases, crimes are over long before police can ever arrive on the scene, which is one of the best arguments for owning a firearm. But in this case, three police cars arrived on the scene with incredible speed. One pulled up and parked outside. One drove down an alley without stopping at all. A third officer knocked on the front door of the building, but not getting any response, all three left.

The upstairs neighbors, seeing the police come and leave, again called and reported the continuing screams of Carolyn Warren, who was being raped at knifepoint and forced to sodomize one of her attackers. That call was received at 6:42am, but was never dispatched at all.

Believing that police were on the way, Carolyn’s upstairs neighbors shouted down that someone was coming to save her. Hearing the women calling, the two men simply went upstairs and forced them into the downstairs apartment. For the next fourteen hours all three captive women were raped, robbed, beaten, and forced to commit sexual acts upon one another.

Carolyn Warren filed a lawsuit against the police department for failing in (what she saw as) their duty to protect the three. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the Justices' majority opinion ruled that:

"...the duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists".

This is now established law, and the principle has been borne out in multiple Supreme Court cases since then, including DeShaney v. Winnebago County, Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, and others.


The point here is absolutely not to disparage the police because of rare cases like this. Almost any police officer in the nation would risk their lives to stop any of these things from happening. Many hope for the opportunity to save members of their community from this kind of violence, even at great personal risk.

These crimes can be avoided with proper knowledge and training, and the responsibility of keeping you and your family safe lies with you, both legally and ethically.   If violence like this occurs to you, do you want to return home to your children and family... or would you rather a violent attacker be allowed to return to theirs?

Get trained. Be ready. Come see us.

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Savannah Ashworth

Written by Savannah Ashworth