Florida governor suspends Sheriff Scott Israel over Parkland massacre response

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, blaming him for...

Posted: Jan 12, 2019 12:34 PM
Updated: Jan 12, 2019 12:34 PM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, blaming him for failures in the response to the Parkland school shooting.

The new governor criticized the lawman's handling of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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"Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership. He failed to protect Floridians and visitors during the tragic Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting in 2017," DeSantis said in a statement. His executive order states the sheriff's office "failed to contain and maintain security" during the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting in 2017, which resulted in a breach of airport security.

According to an "after action report" from Israel, the BSO's 30-year-old radio system went down because it was overwhelmed during the Fort Lauderdale shooting that left five dead and six wounded. The failure of the radio system added to the chaos that included SWAT teams not knowing where to land their helicopters.

"He failed in his duties to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. These incidents demonstrate Sheriff Israel's repeated incompetence and neglect of duty. The families of the victims deserve accountability," DeSantis said.

The governor issued an executive order and said he is appointing retired Coral Springs Police Sgt. Gregory Tony to serve as sheriff.

The Florida Senate ultimately makes the decision whether an official is suspended after the governor has given the Senate a notice of suspension. After being notified, the Senate then asks the suspended official whether they plan to resign or want to request a hearing.

Israel said he "whole-heartedly reject(s) the statements in the governor's executive order as lacking both legal merit and a valid, factual basis. There was no wrongdoing on my part. I served the county honorably." Israel said he served for six years.

"I intend to vigorously fight this unjustified suspension both in court and before the Florida Senate," Israel said, adding that no one was suspended after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead in 2016. "This was about politics, not about Parkland."

Israel said DeSantis vowed to remove him as sheriff when he was campaigning for governor.

"Today, he merely fulfilled a campaign promise," Israel said.

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association, said his organization applauds DeSantis' decision.

"True leaders like Governor DeSantis are willing to make the tough decisions that may not always be the most popular choices," Bell said. "Scott Israel misused his authority and abused his public trust by politicizing the nation's largest fully accredited sheriff's office for his own political ambitions."

Three Broward Sheriff's Office deputies resigned, saying they did so as a result of Israel's suspension, according to command separation forms released by the sheriff's office.

"Sheriff Israel has been twice elected by Broward County residents," said Maj. Chadwick Wagner. "This is a decision that only the resident voters of Broward County should decide."

Soon after the February 14 mass shooting, Israel faced criticism about his agency's response, including calls for his resignation. A recent draft report by a public safety commission tasked with investigating the shooting found several failures and missteps, including among some of Israel's deputies.

According to Florida statute, the governor has the power to suspend the sheriff for actions such as "misfeasance" and "neglect of duty" and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension. The actual power to remove the sheriff from office is in the hands of the state Senate.

According to the state Senate website, it makes "final dispositions" on whether to reinstate a suspended official or remove him from office.

Nikolas Cruz has confessed to carrying out the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, his former school, according to court documents. The attack, which also left dozens wounded, is one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history.

Eleven days after the massacre, more than 70 Republican representatives and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sent a letter to then-Gov. Rick Scott asking him to suspend the sheriff for what they called his "incompetence and neglect of duty."

Israel said then he would not resign.

In April, Broward County sheriff's deputies took a largely symbolic vote of no confidence against Israel, with Bell vowing to ask the governor to consider removing Israel. The sheriff said then the vote reflected only "a small number" of BSO employees and the union representing the vast majority of employees "solidly supports the leadership of this agency."

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which is investigating the shooting, presented its initial report to state officials January 2.

Some of the failures and missteps highlighted in the commission's report ranged from unlocked and unmanned gates on the Parkland campus to an inadequate public-address system. The report also said former Deputy Scot Peterson, the school resource officer, was "derelict in his duty" and "failed to act consistent with his training and fled to a position of personal safety" during the mass shooting. Peterson instructed deputies to stay away from the building where the shootings took place, the draft said.

Several responding Broward sheriff's deputies were either seen on camera or described as taking time to retrieve and put on ballistic vests as well as removing and replacing other equipment while shots were still being fired in the school, the report said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 331863

Reported Deaths: 7494
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22855279
Hinds22625437
Harrison19462326
Rankin14765286
Jackson14233251
Madison10658227
Lee10398178
Jones8713169
Forrest8164157
Lauderdale7528243
Lowndes6761150
Lamar665988
Lafayette6446124
Washington5497139
Bolivar4907134
Pearl River4889149
Oktibbeha476898
Panola4719112
Marshall4648106
Warren4612125
Pontotoc438873
Monroe4243137
Union424379
Neshoba4179180
Lincoln4088115
Hancock402788
Leflore3562125
Pike3511111
Tate348988
Alcorn343174
Sunflower342293
Adams331987
Yazoo330573
Scott330175
Simpson313690
Copiah311467
Itawamba309580
Coahoma308285
Tippah298368
Prentiss292563
Covington280183
Marion278980
Leake277975
Wayne269942
Grenada265688
George259851
Newton256064
Tishomingo235769
Winston235084
Jasper225748
Attala220373
Chickasaw215960
Stone209137
Holmes194974
Clay191554
Tallahatchie181542
Clarke181480
Calhoun177332
Smith175334
Yalobusha169240
Walthall140448
Lawrence137026
Greene134934
Amite131843
Noxubee131135
Perry130838
Montgomery130644
Carroll124531
Webster116732
Jefferson Davis112934
Tunica110827
Benton104425
Claiborne104231
Kemper100329
Humphreys99033
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw80919
Wilkinson73232
Jefferson69028
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 565510

Reported Deaths: 11468
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson828061584
Mobile44938853
Madison36534532
Tuscaloosa26589465
Shelby26409255
Montgomery25598623
Baldwin23319324
Lee16691179
Calhoun15030332
Morgan14877288
Etowah14563368
Marshall12723235
Houston11302292
Elmore10576217
St. Clair10449251
Limestone10420158
Cullman10198204
Lauderdale9883253
DeKalb9226191
Talladega8705187
Walker7545286
Autauga7388113
Jackson7216117
Blount7147139
Colbert6522142
Coffee5962131
Dale5224117
Russell463942
Chilton4603117
Covington4502125
Franklin439781
Tallapoosa4343156
Escambia414782
Chambers3813124
Dallas3674163
Clarke361562
Marion3354106
Pike323179
Lawrence3176101
Winston289672
Bibb276165
Geneva267383
Marengo257367
Barbour241860
Pickens238862
Butler233571
Hale230578
Fayette223863
Henry203345
Cherokee192347
Randolph192244
Monroe190241
Washington174539
Macon167252
Crenshaw163457
Clay161859
Cleburne158445
Lamar149138
Lowndes143854
Wilcox128431
Bullock125342
Conecuh117730
Coosa115229
Perry109628
Sumter107532
Greene95935
Choctaw63125
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