Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel defended his own leadership as he addressed the perceived failings of his department in their response to last week’s deadly school shooting in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
In the interview with host Jake Tapper that aired Sunday morning, Sheriff Israel confirmed a student’s account of seeing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Resource Deputy Scott Peterson standing outside the school building in Parkland, Florida, while Nikolas Cruz was shooting at students and teachers, appearing to do nothing to stop the attack besides talking on his radio.
Israel said that he was “disgusted” with Peterson’s performance, as he indicated in a press conference last Thursday announcing that Peterson had resigned and retired.
But the sheriff was less critical of three other Broward County Sheriff’s deputies who were reportedly seen standing by their squad cars while violent chaos erupted inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As CrimeOnline previously reported, the Broward County Sheriff’s department has come under scrutiny amid claims that the sheriff’s deputies allowed and even directed the Coral Springs police to put themselves at greater risk than the deputies assigned to Parkland who arrived to the scene ahead of the officers from the neighboring police department.
“At this point we have no reason to believe that anyone acted incorrectly or correctly,” Israel said in the televised interview, explaining that authorities would make a determination about the officers’ actions once an investigation had been completed.
But Sheriff Israel appeared to admit that there were no law enforcement officers inside the school building at any point during the shooting massacre, which killed 17 people.
“There was only one law enforcement person, period,” Sheriff Isreael said. “And that was Deputy Peterson,” who did not enter the building.
Sheriff Israel said that Coral Springs Police went into the school building about four minutes after Cruz had already left the campus.
At this point in the interview, Tapper pushed back, suggesting that the responding officers may have believed that Cruz was in the building and still failed to act. Again, Sheriff Israel referred to the ongoing investigation.
“We will look at all of the actions of inactions of every single deputy or leader in our agency,” Israel said.
The sheriff also addressed what he described as politically-charged criticism of his own leadership. Rep. Scott Hager called for Sheriff’s Israel’s resignation in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott.
“The Sheriff was or should have been aware of the threat Cruz presented to his community and chose to ignore it,” Hager reportedly wrote, appearing to reference confirmed reports that law enforcement agencies had been alerted to Cruz’s potential for violence by concerned citizens.
But Sheriff Israel insisted that Hager’s letter was not credible and should not be taken seriously, while insisting that he had no plans to resign.
“It was a shameful letter. It was politically-motivated., Israel said.
“I never met that man. He doesn’t know anything about me. And the letter was full of misinformation.”
[Feature image: Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel/CNN video screenshot]