- CNN host Jake Tapper engaged in a long back-and-forth with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel on Sunday.
- Israel said he would not resign after a Florida state lawmaker suggested he step down following his department’s shortcomings in the Parkland school shooting.
- He also defended his department’s conduct on 18 tips they received about suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz’s behaviour and inclination to violence before the shooting.
- In addition, Israel said he was “disgusted” by the inaction of one of his deputies, but did not rule out the possibility that the shooting might not have happened had his office responded differently.
CNN host Jake Tapper took nearly half his show to grill Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel on Sunday.
Tapper asked about the law enforcement response to the Florida school shooting that killed 17 people, and allowed the long-time sheriff to tell his side of the story after numerous allegations of negligence at his department have emerged.
Israel’s department has been accused of ignoring tips about 19-year-old suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz, and for an inadequate response to the shooting in the moments after it started. As more details about the shooting have emerged, questions have mounted about dozens of warning signs that law enforcement missed about Cruz.
Now, in a letter sent to Florida Governor Rick Scott, Florida state Rep. Bill Hager has called on Israel to resign on account of these claims, but Israel said he was having none of it.
“Of course I won’t resign,” he said on “State of the Union” Sunday. “It was a shameful letter, it was politically motivated, I never met that man, he doesn’t know anything about me, and the letter was full of misinformation.”
Israel said he was “disgusted” by the inaction of deputy Scot Peterson, who resigned on Thursday after it emerged that Peterson, who was armed, never entered the school building while the gunman opened fire.
“That’s what I saw, and when I saw that, I was disgusted,” Israel told Tapper. “I was just demoralized with the performance of former deputy Peterson. And that’s why I called him in, and suspended him without pay as we were going to move toward termination. And he resigned.”
Gov. Scott made similar statements on Fox News’s “Fox News Sunday.”
“We have to do a thorough investigation, and whoever didn’t do their job has to be held accountable,” he said. “There’s no one I talk to that is not disgusted that the local sheriff’s deputy that was there did not go in and kill that individual.”
Despite Peterson’s failure to try to prevent the mass shooting, Israel said, his behaviour does not reflect on the department’s performance.
“I can only take responsibility for what I knew about,” Israel told Tapper. “I’ve given amazing leadership to this agency … you don’t measure a person’s leadership by a deputy.”
Israel said only Peterson’s actions during the shooting are under investigation at the moment. While there were other claims about deputies standing by after the shooting had stopped, Israel maintained that there is no definitive evidence of any further wrongdoing.
“Let me be perfectly clear, our investigation to this point shows that during this horrific attack while this killer was inside the school, there was only one law enforcement person, period, and that was former deputy Scot Peterson,” he said. “At this point we have no reason to believe anyone acted incorrectly or correctly – that’s the point of an investigation.”
At the end of the interview Tapper posed a question to Israel that many have been seeking answers to.
“Do you think that if the Broward Sheriff’s Office had done things differently, this shooting might not have happened?” he asked.
Israel responded with a rather vague statement.
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts OJ Simpson would still be in the record books,” Israel said. “We understand everything wasn’t done perfectly … We want to get it right.”
Tapper was not amused.
“I don’t know what that means,” he said. “There’s 17 dead people, and there’s a whole long list of things your department could have been done differently.”
Missed clues in the lead-up to the shooting
Tapper had Israel answer for other alleged shortcomings within Israel’s department. He pressed him about the 18 calls that were made to the department regarding Cruz’s instability and behaviour. The department also received a tip about a school shooting threat that Cruz on Instagram.
“Of those 18 calls, 16 we believe were handled exactly they way they should,” Israel said. “Two of them we’re not sure if our deputies did everything they could have or should have … but we’re looking into those two calls, and we will absolutely find out what we did and didn’t do, and we’ll handle that accordingly.”
Israel was not sure exactly how the tip about the Instagram threat had been handled.
“I’m not sure if anything was done with that information,” he said.
The Broward Sheriff’s department posted a response to requests about these missed tips on Twitter:
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) February 25, 2018
Toward the end of the interview, Israel gave Tapper his thoughts on what should be done to ensure that police departments are able to more accurately responded to these kinds of tips and potentially devastating threats.
“The whole crux of this is giving law enforcement, giving deputies, giving police officers, not only in Broward County but in Florida and around the nation expanded power to be able to do something more than just write a report,” Israel said.
Watch clips of Israel’s marathon interview below:
As reports emerge that Broward deputies received at least 18 calls about the Florida shooter prior to the shooting, Sheriff Scott Israel says "we will absolutely find out what we did or what we didn't do" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/Ey5M1vON4K https://t.co/DILhP9T72F
— CNN (@CNN) February 25, 2018
"We will get to the truth," Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says, after @JakeTapper questions him about the armed school resource officer who stayed outside of Florida school during shooting #CNNSOTU https://t.co/XD7fLHiIeG
— CNN (@CNN) February 25, 2018
"Of course I won't resign," says Sheriff Scott Israel, after Florida state representative sends letter to Gov. Rick Scott calling for Israel's removal for "neglect of duty and incompetence" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/tQ0ai2G92p
— CNN (@CNN) February 25, 2018