Florida State Rep. Bill Hager on Saturday called on Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from his job due to how Israel responded to the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed.
In a letter from Hager obtained by CBS 12, the lawmaker from Boca Raton wrote to Scott, “We must utilize all of our resources to ensure that a horrific act such as this never happens again.” He adds, “ In the meantime, you have the power through Florida Statute 112.52 (1) to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for neglect of duty and incompetence.”
Hager pointed to news outlets that have “confirmed that the School Resource Officer and three Broward Sheriff Deputies were on campus at the time of the attack and chose to take cover themselves rather than stepping up to protect our students.” He added that it was not until the Coral Springs Police Department arrival that uniformed officers actually entered the school building and “took action.”
Rep. Hager also criticized Sheriff Israel for the reported 23 calls to the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) about accused shooter Nikolas Cruz and his residence, along with the 39 visits by Broward Sheriff Deputies.
Sheriff Israel himself hit back with his own letter, which CBS 12 obtained, to Gov. Scott in an attempt to refute charges that his deputies made no effort to enter the school building to save the students’ lives.
“This statement is patently false. Only one law enforcement officer was ever on the campus – at any time – during the attack: Deputy Scot Peterson. Deputy Peterson immediately resigned Thursday after he was placed on unpaid suspension (pending likely termination) after our initial investigation showed he was present outside the 1200 Building but did not enter for at least four minutes of the attack.”
Israel also denied the number of visits were made by his deputies to Cruz’s home and the reason for the visits to the home.
“BSO had a total of 23 calls for service involving Nikolas Cruz or his family; and 18 of those involved Nikolas directly (the others involved his brother). Of the 18, nearly all but two involved routine calls from the mother relating to parenting issues (her sons were fighting; her son was banging pool equipment against the house; etc). BSO released the entire list of specifics of each call for service, and none were arrestable offenses,” Israel wrote.
He added, “Of the two encounters that remain under review, it is worth noting that in a subsequent incident at school, the BSO SRO subsequently referred Nikolas to DCF, and Nikolas received mental health counseling, DCF supervision, and medication.”
SheriffIsrael, who blamed the National Rifle Association last week at a CNN town hall before revealing his armed deputies remained outside of the school as the incident happened inside, was criticized over his response to another mass shooting in Florida in 2017, The Sun Sentinel reported.
According to The Sentinel, Israel’s office failed to “seize control and set up an effective command system” at the airport at the time of the shooting.
BSO “erred from the very beginning in controlling the shooting scene in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, where five people died and six others were wounded.”
The cause of the mayhem, the 99-page report drafted by Israel’s own office said that BSO’s own antiquated radio system was barely audible for officers to appropriately communicate, which forced them to turn to “hand signals, runners and cellphones,” The Sentinel reported.