Update 7:06p.m.: Florida governor Ron DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel Tuesday evening over his handling of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school, Fox News first reported.
Broward County sheriff Scott Israel told his colleagues on Tuesday that he expects to be suspended immediately by newly elected governor Ron DeSantis as punishment for his handling of last February’s mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Though DeSantis, who was sworn in Tuesday morning, has not yet made any announcements regarding Israel’s tenure, he said repeatedly during his campaign that he believed Israel handled the mass shooting incompetently and deserved to be suspended. Israel now believes that outcome is imminent and told his top commanders as much on Tuesday, according to the Miami New Times.
Deputy Jeff Bell, who leads the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Union, appeared to confirm that reporting to the Miami Herald on Tuesday.
“We know that he is telling everyone at the public-safety building that he is going to be gone,’’ Bell said.
Bell, who has long criticized Israel’s response to the shooting, would not comment on the sheriff’s likely replacement.
“What I will say is we want someone who will remove politics out of police work and commit to protecting the citizens and our children in the schools,’’ he said.
Israel, who described his own leadership as exceptional, has vigorously defended his department’s response to the Valentine’s Day mass shooting, which claimed 17 lives. But a report released last week by a state investigative committee confirmed that multiple sheriff’s deputies took cover outside the school rather than entering the building to confront the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.
That report, which relied on body-camera footage, disproved Israel’s earlier claim, made in a letter to then-governor Rick Scott, that he had suspended the one and only deputy who was on the scene during the shooting.
Stuart Kaplan, Israel’s attorney, told the Herald that Israel has not yet heard from DeSantis and argued that any suspension of his client would ultimately by politically motivated.
“I’m not sure his decision is being made on merit or on fact — or is he just now concerned about following through on a campaign promise that is politically motivated,’’ Kaplan said. “Scott Israel has never wavered that the school district and school children and all members of the community are safe. There is a false insinuation on the part of the public — a feeling that BSO is somehow a better agency just because Scott Israel has been removed.’’