FLORIDA- It’s unbelievable how dirty politics can get… and that appears to be the case with a new report leaked out about Florida Sheriff Gregory Tony.
It just came to light that when he was 14 years old, he shot and killed a man in self-defense. At the time, his family was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“When it enters your home, when it is feet away from you and someone is trying to kill you, that’s when it really resonated I have to do something to get out of this community,” Gregory told NBC Miami.
It came to light through the online watchdog publication Floridabulldog.org.
The publication reported that the shooting took place back in 1993 and came after a “verbal altercation” between Tony and a man named Hector Rodriguez.
“Hector was out in the community, a verbal argument occurred and he pulled a gun from his waistband and threatened to shoot and kill both of us and I was 14 and my brother couldn’t have been 15, 16 years of age we were frightened to death,” Tony told the media.
He said it was an incredibly traumatic incident. He also said he had no choice but to act in self-defense to protect his own life and that of his brother.
“Took off we ran into a house, he followed us into the home, I grabbed my father’s gun, and fortunately I was able to shoot him before he shot us,” Tony said.
Right after the shooting, his father took him to the police station. The shooting was quickly determined to be justified.
A reporter from NBC 6 asked Tony if he disclosed it on his application with the Coral Springs Police Department. That’s where he started his law enforcement career.
He pointed out there was no need to.
“It asked me had I been arrested and the reality of what it is I checked no because I have never been arrested.
This process that took place in Pennsylvania under the juvenile justice system, there is a matter of determining if I did anything wrong,” Tony said.
Early last year, Tony was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis as Broward County Sheriff. He replaced embattled Sheriff Scott Israel.
And while he said it didn’t come up during his interview for the position of Sheriff, he and the governor have since discussed it.
“The Governor understood. He said, ‘look, from a legal standpoint you did what you had to do to survive,’ and he encouraged me to stay focused on doing the right thing for this community and not letting political opposition and slandering keep me from safeguarding the nearly 2 million people here,” said Tony.
The sheriff is of the believe that the incident came up for political reasons.
There are a total of 11 candidates running for BSO sheriff in the 2020 election.
It’s not the first headache he’s been dealing with.
He came under fire in April after a sheriff’s deputy, who serves as the local union president, was suspended with pay on April 10th by the sheriff himself.
The deputy’s attorney says this is a whistleblower retaliation; while the sheriff claims the deputy tried to politicize the passing of a deputy who died from COVID-19.
Abuse of power? In an almost unprecedented move, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony suspended Deputy Union chief Jeff Bell alleging conduct unbecoming among other things. Bell has been one of the most vocal critics of the sheriff https://t.co/E9UsdvtwrR
— True Blue Warriors (@TruBluWarriors) April 11, 2020
Deputy Jeff Bell from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office is at the center of this controversial clash. Deputy Bell isn’t just a deputy for the BCSO, he’s the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association.
The deputy had recently cited concerns publicly regarding the accessibility of PPE within the BCSO. Namely, his concerns pointed toward the BCSO’s Sheriff Gregory Tony. It would be hard not to make the connection of sorts, as to critique a sheriff’s office is essentially critiquing the sheriff.
Sheriff Tony did not take the criticism lightly. On April 7th, Sheriff Tony addressed the press and referred to Deputy Bell’s criticism as damaging to internal relations:
“It has impacted the confidence in the community as to whether or not we are prepared. It has also impacted the nature of the camaraderie within this agency and this has been sparked off by a member who is supposed to represent the very best of our organization, which is our law enforcement personnel, who put their lives on the frontline.”
“I have a rogue employee who decides to politicize and capitalize on a moment when we lost one of our own,” says @browardsheriff Gregory Tony, referring to union president Jeff Bell, who said after the #COVID19 death of Deputy Shannon Bennett that deputies don’t have enough PPEs. pic.twitter.com/pH2MSB9G7b
— Madeleine Wright (@MWrightWPLG) April 7, 2020
Sheriff Tony went as far as to describe Deputy Bell as a “rogue” employee, and that he was trying to politicize the recent passing of Deputy Shannon Bennett who recently died from COVID-19.
With the BCSO handling the suspension, and internal affairs getting involved, Deputy Bell isn’t able to comment any further on the suspension. What was cited as the reasoning for the Sheriff suspending Deputy Bell with pay was as follows:
- Corrupt Practices
- Employee Statements
- Conduct Unbecoming
Yet, does merely questioning the level of preparedness of the BCSO with regard to PPE and COVID-19 really require such a response?
Deputy Bell’s attorney, Eric T. Schwartzreich, tends to think the suspension was over the top:
“Jeff Bell was suspended with pay because he was trying to make sure our deputies have personal protection equipment.”
Not only does Schwartzreich find the suspension to be unwarranted, he claims that it’s a violation of law for the sheriff to do so:
“To suspend someone when they are looking out for first responders is against the law, reprehensible and actionable. Jeff was exercising his first amendment rights as a whistleblower. He was acting in the best interest of his deputies, first responders and the community as a whole.”
When looking into some of the controversial commentary provided by Deputy Bell, prior to his suspension, he made a handful of statements like the following:
“If you look at 5,500 employees [of the BCSO] with 25,000 N95 masks, that means you are looking at four to five masks per person in the agency since February. Is that enough masks in your mind?
Days after Deputy Bell made those comments, Sheriff Tony got before news cameras to show him dispersing PPE to sheriff’s office personnel.
It seems that the press display enacted by Sheriff Tony hasn’t resonated well with the community. Some are even implying he’s guilty of the very things he suspended Deputy Bell over.
“Over two months after the pandemic started and congratulations on two firsts today Sheriff Tony, the first Sheriff in the State of Florida to have a press conference and photo op while handling out masks to his deputies and the first Sheriff in the History of Florida to suspend a Union President for voicing safety concerns for the deputies the union represents, this too will backfire on you….”
So, who is right and who is wrong here?
Is Sheriff Tony seemingly retaliating for having criticism directed toward him internally, or was Deputy Bell out of line by speculating on the BCSO’s level of preparedness?
Time will tell as this unfolds.
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