FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Ousted Broward Sheriff Scott Israel reacted quickly to the news of his suspension Friday and addressed the media just minutes after Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement.
Israel began by extending his sympathies once again to the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. It’s his handling of that tragedy that led to his ousting.
He thanked his family, friends and co-workers.
“I want to extend my thanks to the hard working men and women of the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” and added, “It’s been a wonderful six years. I want to thank the citizens of Broward County who overwhelmingly reelected me.”
Then, it was down to the issue at hand.
“Let me be clear, I wholeheartedly reject the statements in the Governor’s executive order as lacking both legal merit and valid factual basis. There was no wrongdoing on my part.”
Israel plans to fight for his job.
“I intend to vigorously fight this unjustified suspension both in court and before the Florida Senate,” he said. The state Senate can conduct a trial and then remove or reinstate him.
“Sadly, this suspension is not about what occurred on Feb. 14,” he said. “This was about politics, not about Parkland.”
WATCH SCOTT ISRAEL’S FULL COMMENTS HERE:
Some parents of Stoneman Douglas victims and conservative state lawmakers began pushing for Israel’s ouster shortly after the shooting when it was revealed that the Broward deputy assigned to guard the school, Scot Peterson, had not gone into the building to confront the shooter and his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, but took cover outside. Other Broward deputies who arrived during the shooting also didn’t enter, even while officers from neighboring Coral Springs charged inside.
The heat increased after it was learned the sheriff’s office received a call in 2016 and another in 2017 warning that suspect Nikolas Cruz, now 20, was a potential school shooter but deputies disregarded them. Deputies also had about 20 contacts with Cruz as a juvenile — mostly over arguments with his now-deceased mother. Israel has said none of those contacts warranted an arrest — a conclusion law enforcement members of the state commission investigating the shooting have agreed with.
But commissioners in their final report criticized Israel for earlier changing his office’s policy to say deputies “may” confront active shooters instead of “shall,” giving deputies an excuse for not charging the school. Israel told them he didn’t want deputies to think they had to conduct suicide missions.
Commissioners also concluded that the department’s active shooter training had not been effective.
Israel is pointing a finger of blame at the NRA and his support of stricter gun control. He’s called for tougher gun laws in Florida for years.
“Neither the Governor nor any member of his staff have ever talked to me about this tragedy. And now the National Rifle Association controls the Governor’s actions and they are now trying to control law enforcement in Broward County.”
Israel said he was suspended for speaking out about gun violence.
“I will continue, for the rest of my days on earth, to speak out about gun violence. Families and victims deserve that.”
He concluded, “For now, it’s on to court.”
Israel, who was elected sheriff in 2012 after a long career in law enforcement, is suspended without pay.