Sheriff 'disgusted' by deputy's inaction

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says he was disgusted that one of this deputies did not enter Stoneman Douglas high school during the deadly shooting.

Posted: Feb 27, 2018 5:57 AM
Updated: Feb 27, 2018 6:15 AM

[Breaking news update at 10:35 a.m. ET]

Appearing alongside her parents, Maddy Wilford, 17, thanked the police officers, EMTs and doctors who scrambled to save her life after the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Echoing the words of her mother, Missy Cantrell Wilford, Maddy also thanked those who supported and prayed for her as she recovered.

"All the love that's been passed around, I definitely wouldn't be here without it," said Maddy, who suffered chest, abdomen and arm injuries during the massacre.

[Original story published at 9:59 a.m. ET]

As the Broward County sheriff continues to face criticism for his department's actions before and after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, thousands of Floridians will be arriving in Tallahassee on Monday to demand more gun control.

It is the second time in recent days that protesters have converged on the Capitol to pressure lawmakers into taking action. About 100 students and their chaperones made the 450-mile bus trip from Parkland last week, meeting with lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott and staging a protest outside the state House of Representatives.

But where students last week sought conversations and lobbied for a variety of gun control and school safety measures, the group arriving Monday lists as one of its aims a permanent ban on assault-style rifles like the one used by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooter.

The "Rally in Tally" will be led by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is vying for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and is expected to draw 1,000 Floridians from across the state, according to a news release.

Sheriff cooperating

The rally will unfold as lawmakers, including Scott, demand a state investigation into the Broward County Sheriff's Office response to the deadly February 14 school shooting.

On Sunday, Scott asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to "immediately investigate the law enforcement response" to the shooting, according to a news release from his office.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said in a statement that his department "will fully cooperate" with the probe, "as we believe in full transparency and accountability."

Israel has been under growing pressure as state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, along with 73 other Republican state representatives, called on the governor to suspend Israel for "incompetence and neglect of duty" in a letter sent Sunday.

They said that he and his deputies had information about the shooter, yet failed to intervene "in the years, months, and days leading up to that shooting," which Corcoran described as "unacceptable and unforgivable."

"Sheriff Israel failed to maintain a culture of alertness, vigilance, and thoroughness amongst his deputies. ... As a result of Sheriff Israel's failures, students and teachers died," the letter said.

Amid calls for his suspension, Israel, a Democrat, said Sunday, "Of course I won't resign."

Law enforcement including the FBI and local authorities received warnings about Cruz before the attack, including one caller saying the eventual gunman could be a "school shooter in the making."

The sheriff's office said it received several calls related to Cruz in the past decade. Israel said investigators are looking into the handling of at least two calls that may have tipped off law enforcement about Cruz.

Read the transcript of the interview with Sheriff Israel

When questioned about red flags brought to law enforcement's attention, Israel said, "I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I've given amazing leadership to this agency."

What happened during the shooting?

There have also been questions about how Broward County deputies responded during the critical moments of the massacre.

During the shooting, the armed school resource officer assigned to the school stayed outside the building where the shooting was taking place, authorities said. Scot Peterson took cover outside as bullets flew for 4 minutes and "never went in," Israel had said.

"I was disgusted. I was just demoralized with the performance of former deputy (Scot) Peterson," Israel said.

Peterson had received active-shooter training, according to a letter Israel had written in response to Florida state Rep. Bill Hager, who wrote a letter urging the governor to remove Israel from his post for his deputies' "unfathomable inaction" during the massacre.

Peterson resigned last week following his suspension.

Questions also have mounted over what happened during the shooting. Sources have previously said that Coral Springs police officers arrived at the site of the shooting and were surprised to find three sheriff's deputies, in addition to Peterson, had not entered the school.

Israel said his department is also looking into reports that the deputies didn't enter the school building during the shooting, but as of now, Peterson was the only officer that he was certain had been derelict.

"We will get to the truth, but at this point, one deputy was remiss, dereliction of duty, and he's now no longer with this agency. And that's Peterson," Israel said.

He added that his department's investigation indicates the Coral Springs officers didn't arrive until about 4 minutes after Cruz had left the campus.

A report on what Coral Springs officers observed is expected. Sources caution that surveillance video is currently being reviewed and official accounts could ultimately differ from recollections of officers on the scene.

Return to campus

As the investigations continue, Stoneman Douglas students returned to campus Sunday for a voluntary campus orientation. Grappling with trauma, some students and parents making their first emotional return to campus wore school T-shirts that read: "MSDStrong."

"It was really scary. I didn't know how I was going to feel when I went in and I saw the fence around the freshman building ... and all the windows were covered," sophomore Tanzil Philip said.

The building where the shooting occurred will remain closed. Armed deputies were on campus and will be on hand when students return to class Wednesday.

Philip said students met in the theater room, "and we just gave each other hugs."

Related: These are the victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting

School officials are working with students who don't want to return to Stoneman Douglas, arranging for them to transfer.

Superintendent Robert Runcie said officials will be accommodating and take measures like adding counselors and service dogs in classrooms.

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