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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 1:34 PM
Updated: Jan 12, 2019 1:34 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1524527

Reported Deaths: 20751
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2077652558
Lake1010411517
Allen946081024
Hamilton73638551
St. Joseph65362761
Elkhart50026632
Vanderburgh48959530
Tippecanoe44411338
Johnson38772527
Hendricks36850462
Porter34709476
Madison29301547
Clark26328328
Vigo25941346
LaPorte23600313
Monroe23478249
Howard22382381
Delaware21877370
Hancock18857220
Bartholomew18433216
Kosciusko18124203
Warrick17207215
Wayne16474303
Floyd16129257
Grant15566299
Morgan14615232
Boone13622138
Noble11983142
Shelby11877152
Dearborn11825113
Henry11771201
Marshall11444171
Dubois11418152
Jackson10772104
Cass10380143
Lawrence10308221
DeKalb10292132
Huntington10277140
Gibson9749126
Montgomery9377144
Knox9162125
Harrison9157117
Whitley886771
Steuben8739105
Jasper8325116
Putnam8306100
Clinton827596
Miami8249135
Jefferson8030127
Wabash7914139
Ripley7278116
Adams6713103
Daviess6661130
Scott663586
White624484
Greene6159112
Clay615275
Decatur6062120
Wells6001120
Jennings600081
Fayette5886122
Posey561648
LaGrange535797
Randolph5171129
Washington511470
Owen5068100
Fountain482580
Spencer457456
Sullivan449866
Starke443986
Fulton440393
Orange435083
Jay419964
Rush418839
Perry397555
Carroll384549
Franklin382850
Vermillion363562
Pike327845
Parke327338
Tipton320675
Blackford275955
Pulaski275375
Newton235461
Brown233556
Benton221521
Crawford220132
Switzerland201414
Martin191822
Warren179522
Union172619
Ohio125216
Unassigned0759

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2496243

Reported Deaths: 31987
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2696772100
Cuyahoga2600613087
Hamilton1742641756
Montgomery1162791651
Summit1084961418
Lucas929121193
Butler82981963
Stark766321431
Lorain63976809
Warren52895489
Mahoning50955930
Lake47462611
Clermont46371452
Delaware40674220
Trumbull39527790
Licking38492416
Medina38487427
Fairfield35469349
Greene33906435
Portage32283366
Clark31960453
Richland29400444
Wood29143301
Allen25702403
Miami23931408
Muskingum23316255
Columbiana22903409
Wayne21965365
Tuscarawas19512428
Erie18531224
Ashtabula18489362
Marion18456235
Scioto17888214
Ross17287260
Pickaway16251181
Hancock16004232
Geauga15456229
Lawrence14746186
Belmont14033248
Union1403384
Huron13838184
Jefferson13519261
Sandusky13180200
Athens12624107
Knox12037201
Seneca11934204
Darke11316202
Ashland11157184
Washington11009172
Auglaize10785147
Crawford10333178
Shelby10308160
Brown9972145
Fulton9661154
Highland9632151
Guernsey9612122
Defiance9486137
Logan9403147
Clinton9299132
Mercer9015112
Madison8971111
Preble8428170
Williams8263138
Putnam8024136
Champaign7974113
Ottawa7909123
Jackson7763121
Perry7415102
Coshocton7345136
Morrow723984
Fayette703292
Pike658489
Hardin6532133
Gallia634391
Adams6159127
Van Wert6025121
Henry598196
Hocking5835105
Wyandot498894
Carroll4961101
Holmes4857167
Paulding421665
Meigs397774
Monroe313868
Harrison296362
Noble295652
Morgan289448
Vinton254646
Unassigned08
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