A Florida state representative wants Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel fired after reports surfaced suggesting his deputies didn’t intervene in the Parkland school shooting earlier this month.
Republican Rep. Bill Hager sent a letter over the weekend to Gov. Rick Scott demanding Israel’s removal — under Florida Statute 112.52 (1) — for “neglect of duty and incompetence” related to the Feb. 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and 16 wounded.
“Various news outlets have confirmed that the School Resource Officer and three Broward Sheriff Deputies were on campus at the time of the attack and chose to take cover themselves rather than stepping up to protect our students,” Hager said in the letter. “Not one of these trained officers made an effort to enter the building to protect students and teachers and save lives.”
Israel described Hager’s accusation as “patently false” in a response letter made public via the Broward Sheriffs Office. “Only one one law enforcement officer was ever on campus — at any time — during the attack,” he said. “Deputy Scot Peterson.”
Israel confirmed Peterson retired last week after facing an unpaid suspension and likely termination over his inaction during the shooting. He told reporters video footage shows Peterson idled outside of the school for over four minutes while 19-year-old accused gunman Nikolas Cruz hunted down students and teachers inside.
Israel said the Coral Springs Police Department arrived first at the scene and led a team of officers, including some from BSO, into the building.
“BSO has a full active‐shooter training program that all BSO deputies are required to attend (and with recurring refresher training),” he said. “Deputy Peterson received the training, but clearly did not follow the protocols.”
Hager also criticized Israel for mishandling dozens of calls received involving Cruz and his family before the rampage and raised concerns over BSO’s response to the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting in January 2017.
“An investigation by Sheriff Israel into the unfathomable inaction of these deputies will do nothing to bring back the 17 victims,” he said. “The Sheriff was fully aware of the threat this individual presented to his community and chose to ignore it. Sadly, he was not the only one that ignored it. DCF, Broward County Schools, the FBI and the BSO all had the pieces to put this puzzle together, but failed to communicate.”
In the nearly two weeks since the shooting, investigators have pieced together a disturbing profile of Cruz as a lonely teen fascinated with firearms who displayed multiple warning signs either missed — or ignored — by the state and federal agencies around him.
FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted in the days after the shooting agents failed to follow up on a Jan. 5 tip about Cruz’s guns, penchant for violence and homicidal tendencies.
School board officials also approved Cruz’s transfer to Stoneman Douglas in January 2016, despite notes in his education plan suggesting he wasn’t ready to leave Cross Creek, the district’s school for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students.
Israel said none of the 23 calls to BSO regarding Cruz or his family ever amounted to an arrestable offense. He called out media reports suggesting the office followed up on Cruz 39 times as “simply fiction.”
“I am very proud of the incredible work that so many from BSO and other agencies performed on February 14,” he said. “And I am equally appalled that Rep. Hager felt a need to engage in disingenuous political grandstanding, perhaps in hopes he will garner some headlines, at the expense of the truth.”
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran likewise penned a letter to the governor on Sunday calling for Israel’s removal, accusing him of failing “to maintain a culture of alertness, vigilance and thoroughness amongst his deputies.”
In response, the governor directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate BSO’s response to the shooting. Israel said the office is cooperating with the investigation, so far.
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