Rafael Olmeda Reporter South Florida Sun Sentinel

The only armed deputy stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School the day of Nikolas Cruz’s deadly rampage asked a Broward judge on Wednesday to find he had “no legal duty” to protect the students and faculty from harm.

The judge rejected his argument.

Scot Peterson, who resigned from the Broward Sheriff’s 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.

“We want to say he had an obligation, but the law isn’t that,” said Peterson’s lawyer, Michael Piper. “From a legal standpoint, there was no duty.”

Englander Henning saw it differently, finding Peterson had a duty to the school community as someone whose job was security and who had an “obligation to act reasonably” under the circumstances of the shooting.

The judge also found Peterson was not protected from the lawsuit by “sovereign immunity,” a legal doctrine that shields public employees from legal action based on their official conduct.

Piper said he would appeal the ruling.

Peterson was not in court Wednesday for the hearing — in a separate motion he asked the judge to keep Pollack’s father, Andrew, from attending a formal interview as part of the lawsuit. Pollack, who is also suing Cruz, as well as the family that took him in two months before the shooting, and his mental health providers, sat at the plaintiff’s table during the hearing.

One of the lawyers representing Pollack expressed shock that Peterson would try to get out of the lawsuit.

“It is inconceivable that anyone could advance the proposition that Scot Peterson had no duty to these people,” said attorney Joel Perwin. “That 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.”

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.

On Wednesday, after Englander Henning rejected Peterson’s motion to dismiss, attorneys argued over the deputy’s effort to keep Andrew Pollack from attending his deposition. Piper argued that comments Pollack had made about Peterson online, while not explicitly “threats,” were hostile and “unfriendly.”

Pollack posted a comment on a GoFundMe page Peterson established for his legal defense fund, asserting that “the only thing we should help him with is which solid tree to hang a noose from.”

In a later interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Pollack acknowledged writing the comment and added, “He’s not going to hide from me forever. One way or another, he’s going to sit across from me at that table.”

Piper cited that comment as further reason Pollack should not be permitted to attend Peterson’s deposition.

Englander Henning postponed Peterson’s deposition, originally scheduled for next Monday, but ruled that Pollack could attend it.

Outside the courtroom, Pollack dismissed the implication that he could not be entrusted to be in the same room with Peterson.

“I just want to look that guy in the eye,” Pollack said. “It’s about accountability for the 17 victims and my daughter. He had a duty to go in there and protect and save my daughter. And he failed everybody that day.”