Broward Sheriff Scott Israel ducked questions from the media by apparently sneaking in and out of a side door at a prayer meeting held in his support Thursday morning as he deals with withering criticism over his agency’s handling of the Parkland school shooting.
The event, at a Pompano Beach church pastored by a Broward Sheriff’s Office employee, drew roughly 150 people, mainly from Israel’s loyal Democratic constituency in the African American community.
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The sheriff was “here for a few moments,” a spokesman for a group of Broward County pastors told reporters, who were not allowed into the event.
“We don’t want you in the church,” said Pastor John Mohorn, who once worked in BSO’s chaplain office, according to head chaplain Nathaniel Knowles. Mohorn is still on the agency’s payroll in some capacity, Knowles said.
Another person who attended said Israel stayed for about 20 to 30 minutes before quietly departing.
A news release distributed by pastors before the meeting praised Israel for being “transparent, accountable and visible.”
Mohorn described the event at Word of the Living God Ministries as “a prayer for the school, the children, the families, Sheriff Scott Israel and the agency.”
He said Israel played no role in organizing the meeting and declined to comment when asked his role at BSO. A BSO spokeswoman said Mohorn makes nearly $74,000 per year. She described him as an “associate chaplain” and said he was not on duty Thursday.
Anthony Burrell, another Broward pastor who took questions after the prayer service, said “there’s been an attack against [Israel] by elected officials.”
Republican leaders across the state have called for Israel, a Democrat, to resign. They point to warning signs not followed up on by BSO and the fact that at least one deputy did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz during the rampage that left 17 people dead.
In response to a bruising interview Israel did on CNN Sunday, Burrell said: “And Jake Tapper on CNN, the sheriff is doing an amazing job!”
He said he did not know why Israel wished to keep a low profile at the event.