Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel defended himself and his department against suggestions that they missed multiple “red flags” about the mass murderer who killed 17 students in the local high school.
“I can only take responsibility for what I knew about,” Israel told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I exercised my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency.”
“Amazing leadership?” an incredulous Tapper asked.
“Yes, Jake,” Israel replied. “There’s a lot of things we have done throughout this — this is — you don’t measure a person’s leadership by a deputy not going into a (school) — these deputies received the training they needed. They received the equipment,” Israel said.
“Maybe you measure somebody’s leadership by whether or not they protect the community,” Tapper said. “In this case, you have listed 23 incidents before the shooting involving the shooter, and still nothing was done to keep guns out of his hands, to make sure that the school was protected, to make sure you were keeping an eye on him.”
Tapper noted that, among other failures, at least one Broward County Sheriff’s deputy failed to enter the high school when the shooting started. “I don’t understand how you can sit there and claim amazing leadership,” he told the sheriff.
Israel said in at least 16 of the cases where warnings were given about the shooter, “our deputies did everything right. Our deputies have done amazing things.
“We have taken this — in the five years I have been sheriff, we have taken the Broward Sheriff’s Office to a new level. I have worked with some of the bravest people I have ever met.
“One person — at this point, one person didn’t do what he should have done. It’s horrific. The victims here, the families, I pray for them every night. It makes me sick to my stomach that we had a deputy that didn’t go in, because I know, if I was there, if I was on the wall, I would have been the first in, along with so many of the other people.”
Tapper’s response: “I think there are a lot of people, sir, who think that there are a lot of mistakes, other than that one deputy.”
Earlier in the interview, Tapper pressed Israel on a Nov. 30 call to the Broward County Sheriff’s Department from a tipster who said Nikolas Cruz could be a “school shooter in the making.”
Tapper asked Israel why no report was generated following that phone call.
“Well, if that’s accurate, Jake, there needed to be a report,” Israel said. “And that’s what we’re looking into, that a report needed to be completed, it needed to be forwarded to our either homeland security or violent crimes unit, and they would’ve followed up on it.”
Israel said the officer who handled the call is now on restrictive duty, pending the results of an internal investigation.
“I can’t predict how an investigation is going, but we have — I have exercised my due diligence,” Israel said. “I have led this county proudly, as I always have. We have restricted that deputy as we look in to it.
“Deputies make mistakes. Police officers make mistakes. We all make mistakes. But it’s not the responsibility of the general or the president, if you have a deserter. You look into this. We’re looking into this aggressively. And we will take care of it, and justice will be served.”
At the end of the interview, Tapper told Israel that a state lawmaker has asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Israel from his job for “negligence of duty and incompetence.”
“Will you resign?” Tapper asked him.
“Of course I won’t resign,” the sheriff said. He said the letter calling for his firing was “politically motivated.”
“I never met that man,” Israel said of the letter-writer. “He doesn’t know anything about me. And the letter was full of misinformation.” Israel said he wrote his own letter to the governor, describing what he called “all the mistakes” in the lawmaker’s letter.
“Of course I won’t resign,” he added.
And in one final, bizarre exchange, Tapper asked the sheriff: “Do you think that if the Broward Sheriff’s Office had done things differently, this shooting might not have happened?”
“Listen, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Tapper said. “There’s 17 dead people, and there’s a whole long list of things your department could have been done differently.”
“Listen, that’s what after-action reports are,” Israel replied. “That’s what lessons-learned reports are for.
“We — I have entered into conversation with Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. They will be coming to town to do an independent after-action lessons-learned report.
“We understand everything wasn’t done perfectly. And if it happened in Los Angeles or Chicago or any other city, every person wouldn’t have performed perfectly. That’s not what happens.
“Yes, if Scot Peterson went into — do I believe if Scot Peterson went into that building, there was a chance he could have neutralized the killer and saved lives? Yes, I believe that. But as far as anything else done at this point, I can’t say that.”
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
February 26th, 2018