Florida Republicans ratcheted up the pressure on Broward County’s elected sheriff on Sunday, with dozens of state representatives calling on the governor to suspend Scott Israel from office. Meanwhile, the governor called on state law enforcement to investigate the local police response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland.
In the wake of revelations that a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy waited outside the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day, Gov. Rick Scott called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Sunday to review how police handled the response to the shooting. His office said he spoke Sunday to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
“FDLE has confirmed that they will immediately begin their process,” Scott’s office said.
Scott’s announcement followed a Sunday morning interview on CNN in which Israel said his agency’s own investigators are reviewing BSO’s response, and acknowledged that three or four more deputies waited to rush into the school after arriving when reports of the shooting went out. He said only one deputy was on scene while the shooting was active, and that deputy, Scot Peterson, resigned last week rather than be fired.
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Of course I won’t resign
Sheriff Scott Israel, on CNN
Israel, a Democrat, was defiant and dismissed calls for him to step down or be removed. His office released a statement Sunday that BSO “will fully cooperate with FDLE.”
“Of course I won’t resign,” Israel said on CNN.
But those revelations, along with a BSO timeline that shows the agency had received tips that Cruz was a possible “school shooter in the making,” led dozens of state lawmakers to call for his suspension. Almost immediately after Scott announced that FDLE was investigating the shooting response, House Speaker Richard Corcoran — very likely a candidate for governor this November — released a letter signed by 73 House Republicans calling on the governor to suspend Israel.
“The failures of Sheriff Israel and his deputies during and after the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (SDHS) on February 14, 2018, and their failures to intervene regarding Nikolas Jacob Cruz in the years, months, and days leading up to that shooting, are unacceptable and unforgivable,” Corcoran wrote.
Scott said in a statement Sunday that he wants a full review of BSO’s response. He did not address calls for Israel’s removal.
Should Israel be removed or suspended, the governor, who may run for the U.S. Senate in November, would be able to appoint a successor more likely to be friendly to Scott. In 2007, when Ken Jenne was removed as sheriff, then-Governor (and then-Republican) Charlie Crist appointed Republican Al Lamberti as sheriff.
“There must be an independent investigation and that is why I asked the FDLE Commissioner to immediately start this process,” Scott said in a statement. “I have spoken to Speaker Corcoran about his request and I understand his concerns. I have spoken to the Speaker regularly since the shooting, and like me, he wants the families to have answers and for there to be full accountability. That’s what the victims and their families deserve.”