Victim in Parkland school shooting speaks out about former Sheriff Israel: ‘Used me for a photo op’

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BROWARD COUNTY, FL –Back on Valentine’s Day in 2018, a lone gunman (whose name will not be mentioned in this article) entered onto the property of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire with a long gun, killing 17 students and faculty and wounding others. 

At the time of the shooting, Scott Israel was the Sheriff of Broward County.  He was later removed by the Governor for many reasons involving this shooting, number one because no one really investigated the shooter who had been reported to authorities many times prior to the shooting. 

Recently, Democrat Scott Israel is attempting to be elected as Sheriff again and has sought out endorsements. He has received one, from the Sun Sentinel. 

Law Enforcement Today would be remiss to blame all of the events of the mass shooting on former Sheriff Israel. After all, he was not the person that conducted the shooting, and he was not one of the many responding deputies and FBI Agents that dealt with the complaints. 

However, he was the one who mandated what training his deputies received and how they responded to threats of mass violence.  In both of these areas, he was arguably negligent.

Many agencies, after the Columbine shooting in 1999, changed their training for responding to an active shooter. No more would the officers wait for additional officers or for SWAT to arrive before engaging. After Columbine, officers were trained to engage the active shooter as quickly as possible.

Apparently, Israel did not receive that memo, and did not change the training that his deputies had at the time.  The lack of proper training resulted in 17 dead and many others wounded. 

That is not something that you can apologize for and ask for a second chance.

When word came around to Anthony Borges, a student at the time of the Parkland shooting who had been shot five times, that the Sun Sentinel had endorsed failed Israel for sheriff in the democratic race, he felt obliged to author a letter. 

In it, he mentions waking up in the hospital and seeing Israel taking a picture with him.  He remembers wondering if his father approved of the picture and later learned that he had not.  All of them were angry that Israel was taking the opportunity to have a photo taken with a victim of this mass shooting.

Borges stated in his letter:

“My family and I felt relieved when the governor [Republican Governor Rick Scott] removed Sheriff Israel and put another person in his place.  I was also happy to see your newspaper expose Sheriff Israel for who he is.  Israel and the others allowed this violent kid to come into our school without even telling us.  I heard him telling everyone that he didn’t have a problem doing it.  17 people dead and 17 injured and he was telling everyone that he [Israel] did an amazing job. 

“I was happy to see your newspaper didn’t allow him to get away with those lies.  Slowly but surely, we have been fighting to hold those people responsible for what happened.  This Sheriff was one of them.” 

Borges continued:

“I thought that we would eventually get a sheriff that wouldn’t let this happen and then I read that you guys are endorsing him for Sheriff.  I have asked my family but I still don’t understand why you guys knowing what he did would endorse him. 

“When I read the newspaper all I could see was the excuses you were making for him…..I can tell you my family feels betrayed by your paper.  The endorsement of says there was no better candidate.  Is this a reason to give him another chance to get people killed?” 

Borges and his family are not alone in having concerns about Israel becoming Sheriff of Broward County again. 

Hunter Pollack, the brother of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, who was killed during the shooting, also spoke out. 

He said:

“I wasn’t planning on sending you this letter, but, after watching my mom cry tears of pain when she saw your endorsement of Scott Israel, I felt obligated to.  I just can’t fathom the pain the 16 other victim’s families felt when you released your shameful endorsement. 

“But given that you wrote that you anticipated your endorsement would engender such feelings, I’ll stick to the facts of the case you seem to have forgotten.” 

Pollack highlighted the amount of times that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was warned about the suspect in this case, “40 times.” 

Pollack also discounted the cowardice of School Resource Officer Scot Peterson for his refusal to enter the school and engage the shooter, noting that he had “only received one hour of active shooter training over the last three years…..and [BSO] was responsible for enforcing such training and evaluating his performance regularly.” 

Political endorsements are usually reserved for those that typically stand up to the virtues and ideals of those promoting them.  It is a wonder, then, that the Sun Sentinel in this case has stuck their neck out for a democratic sheriff who willfully did not ensure that his deputies had the proper training for active shooters.

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Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s most recent report on Scott Israel.

Disgraced ex-Broward County Florida Sheriff Scott Israel who was removed from his position after the Parkland high school shooting in February of 2018 is now suing over his removal from office.

According to the Attorneys for Israel, Ben Kuehne and Stuart Kaplan, they state that their federal lawsuit “contends Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Senate deprived him of due process and failed to follow a special master’s recommendation that he shouldn’t have been suspended from office.”

Israel was removed from his position as Sheriff when it was deemed that he was not capable of performing his position. This came in regards to his department’s response to the shooting that killed 27 individuals at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Israel from his position, he appointed Gregory Tony in his place. Tony is a former Coral Springs police sergeant. He was serving as the president of an active-shooter response training company prior to his appointment.

Israel and his attorneys filed the federal lawsuit where they alleging his rights were violated when

“The Florida Senate changed the rules and introduced what he claims is false information in order to remove him from office last month.”

According to the Miami Herald,

“The lawsuit, filed on Friday in U.S. District Court, seeks Israel’s reinstatement and argues that the Florida Senate vote to uphold Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to remove Israel from office was a purely partisan move because the governor failed to prove that Israel neglected his duties or was incompetent in response to the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.”

It was reported that DeSantis, who was the newly elected Republican Governor, ran on a campaign platform that he promised if elected that he would remove Israel from his office for incompetence.

DeSantis stated that the former school resource officer Scot Peterson along with other Broward County deputies failed to confront the shooter in Parkland under the leadership of Sherriff Israel.

Israel, who is a Democrat, was only halfway through his second term as Sherriff when DeSantis suspended him. Israel and his attorneys argue that it was strictly political based on Israel’s democratic affiliation.

DeSantis has stated that:

“The massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”

DeSantis has also publicly criticized the department’s handling of a shooing that took place at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport in 2017 that left five people dead.

Before Israel’s dismissal DeSantis made comments to reporters regarding Israel explaining

“He failed in his duties to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14,2018. These incidents demonstrate Sheriff Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty.”

During the process the Florida Senate hired a conservative Republican lawyer along with former lawmaker Dudley Goodlette who conducted a trial in order to make a recommendation to the full Senate. The Senate has the sole power to remove an elected official from office.

After the trial according to the Miami Herald:

“Goodlette recommended that Israel be reinstated, concluding that the governor’s lawyers failed to prove their case that the actions of the deputies were evidence that Israel had acted with incompetence and negligence.”

However, on Oct. 23 of last year the Senate voted 25-15, which came down mostly along party lines, to remove Israel rejecting Goodlette’s recommendation.

According to the law suit that was filed by Israel documents stated the Senate “ignored and rejected due process principles of notice and an opportunity to be heard by changing the legislative rules.”

 

It also went on to explain that:

“It became apparent to the Senate legislative majority that the governor had failed to present facts supporting his suspension decision, the Senate introduced new information during a hearing of the Rules Committee and conducted a trial by ambush.”

That lawsuit alleges that the evidence:

“…relied on materially false information, speculation, and innuendo in reaching its decision to remove Sheriff Israel from office, all of which were not presented to Sheriff Israel in advance of the Senate proceeding.”

Israel’s attorney Ben Kuehne explained to reporters,

“The Senate charade was nothing more than a carefully scripted scheme to subvert due process by creating new allegations and presenting false facts to remove this Democrat from sheriff of Broward County as preparations for the 2020 election are under way.”

The lawsuit goes on to explain:

“In sum and substance, the suspension and removal proceedings were little more than a sham and mockery of fairness and due process, thereby subverting the will of the voters of Broward County who elected Sheriff Israel to a four-year term expiring in November 2020.”

The Miami Herald has reported:

“This is the second lawsuit Israel has filed in his attempt to be reinstated to his former job. In March, he filed a quo warrant to petition challenging the governor’s authority to remove him. The case went to the Florida Supreme Court, which denied the petition.”

It is reported that Israel is running against Tony to get his position back in the upcoming 2020 election. He will be one of a large field of individuals running for the office. Five other Democrats, as well as Republican and an independent have also filed to run.


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