Gov. Ron DeSantis is accusing suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel of being responsible for the deaths of 17 students and faculty members at a Parkland high school and five other victims of a mass shooting at an airport, according to documents filed this week with the Florida Senate.
The allegations against Israel, whose suspension was one of DeSantis’ first actions after the Republican governor took office in January, were included in what is known as a “bill of particulars” as Israel tries to get his job back.
Israel has appealed the suspension to the state Senate, which has the authority to reinstate or remove elected officials. Senate President Bill Galvano appointed former Rep. Dudley Goodlette, a Naples-area Republican, to serve as special master in Israel’s case and in an appeal by suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson, who was also removed by DeSantis.
The bill of particulars in Israel’s case, filed Monday by DeSantis lawyer Nicholas Primrose, includes specific allegations related to the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and a Jan. 6, 2017, attack at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
“Mr. Israel neglected his duty and/or was incompetent in failing his paramount statutory responsibility to be the ‘conservator of the peace’ in Broward County,” in violation of Florida law, Primrose wrote in the 14-page document.
The bill of particulars also charges Israel with “failing to protect the life” of each of the 22 shooting victims, identifying them individually by name.
But the allegations drew an angry response Thursday from Israel’s attorney, Benedict Kuehne.
The “scandalously false allegations that the sheriff is responsible for the deaths of any of these victims is outrageous,” Kuehne told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview.
“At a time when the governor was a candidate and a member of Congress doing nothing to promote the health, welfare and safety of people in the state of Florida and throughout the nation, our sheriff was working diligently with his office to protect the people of Broward County. And for a governor, from his perch in Tallahassee, to contend, essentially, he would have done better makes a mockery of the dedication of law enforcement officers,” Kuehne said.
DeSantis suspended the embattled sheriff shortly after a state commission created to investigate the Parkland massacre — one of the nation’s worst school shootings — released a report finding fault with how Israel’s office handled the attack by confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school with a long history of mental health problems.
As Cruz unleashed a volley of bullets inside what was known as the freshman building, the high school’s resource officer, former sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, lingered outside. Other deputies hid behind cars. The delays, along with a lack of training, communication problems and Israel’s policy that did not require deputies to confront active assailants, contributed to the number of deaths and injured victims, the commission found.
Israel “is solely responsible for the negligence of the deputies he appointed,” one of the allegations in the Senate document said.
Other allegations focused on Israel’s active-shooter policy, which “resulted in additional fatalities” at the Parkland school.
“From the time Deputy Peterson arrived at Building 12, his failure to enter the building and/or engage the gunman resulted in seven additional fatalities and almost a dozen more wounded students and faculty,” Primrose wrote, detailing one of the charges against Israel.
Seven other deputies arrived at the campus, heard gunfire and did not enter the building or engage with Cruz, also resulting in additional fatalities or injuries, Primrose added.
The document also accuses Israel of failing to adequately train his deputies, as evidenced by the attacks on the airport and the school.
“The lack of frequent and effective trainings by Mr. Israel was exposed during two separate mass casualty events within a one-year span of time that resulted in the deaths of 22 individuals,” the allegations said.
Israel, a Democrat first elected in 2012, has fiercely insisted he is innocent of any wrongdoing and has accused the Republican governor of removing him from office to fulfill a campaign pledge.
“The governor’s bill of particulars, as expected, is merely another press release designed to curry favor with those people to whom he made his campaign promise,” Kuehne told the News Service. “The document itself is not a bill of particulars. The document itself contains not a single reference to any legally binding duty that was neglected, any legally binding standard to which the sheriff failed to measure. Instead, it is an effort to say, ‘I disagree with the sheriff and I have the power to remove him.’ That is precisely what we knew from the beginning this case was about, and the bill of particulars is proof of that.”
Kuehne, who requested the bill of particulars during a Feb. 19 case management conference, railed about the allegations blaming the deaths of the 17 Parkland victims — 14 of whom were students — on Israel, who has said he intends to seek re-election next year.
“To say in writing, as a statement of the governor of the state of Florida in an official proceeding, that the sheriff is responsible for the tragic deaths of these children and adults at the hands of a shooter that the justice system will decide culpability is just outrageous. There’s no word to describe what the governor’s official writing is, other than an unacceptably unjust accusation,” Kuehne said.
DeSantis Bill of Particulars Against Sheriff Scott Israel
Click to access GovernorDeSantisBillofParticulars_ScottIsrael.pdf
Michael Cocchiola says
DeSantis is a complete Trump-loving idiot. He now wants to demonize the former sheriff and probably lay waste to his family. How does DeSantis face his mirror each morning?
Now doesn’t that sound like some trump made up sh**
Many balls were dropped in this sad situation. But, Israel was responsible for many of those balls and he should be remove. So everyone who supports Trump is an idiot now too? I guess I can add that to my list of unfounded accusations.
@ Micheal….. strange that someone in politics would do that to another person. At least this accusation has some validity to it. Much more could have been done to prevent / reduce the extent of this shameful act. Not like what the left did to Kavanaugh and his family. I am sure Desantis looks in the mirror just like everyone on the left does. To criticize onside without acknowledging the others side is the same is hypocrisy.
desantis is an NRA sock puppet, and the Republican party is an NRA power tool. Nothing has changed and/or improved even a tiny bit.
Outside Looking Out says
What kind of idiot is DeSantis? Everyone wants to blame anyone but the guy that pulled the trigger. How asinine!
What about some respect for our law enforcement Mr. Governor? Why instead you do not vote against the NRA and stricter background checks before making bloody money selling weapons and ammo?
David S. says
Pogo I couldn’t agree with you more. Screw Trump, NRE and DeSantis……
John DeWitt says
I am hoping this decision was based on well documented reports of training deficiencies within the department that Israel could actually be held responsible for. This could be a political hit job or it could be a well reasoned response to actual incompetence. We are not getting enough facts from this or any other journalistic reporting to actually make informed opinions. As for my own opinion, Israel should have spent more effort in the aftermath of the shooting working to heal the community rather than shield his own image. It makes all the accusations of incompetence more believable.
Louis L. says
Until the Republicans go against the NRA I will continue to vote Democratic.
John Dewitt says
[John, when you can give us an example of Democrats confiscating guns, we’ll gladly approve your comment. Until then, please refrain from perpetuating myths on this website. Thanks.–]
Until Democrats reject Socialism and confiscation of guns from law abidng citizens, I will continue to vote Republican.
Weldon Ryan says
Not one of these Trumppets supported any of the kids on the other side of this gun debate. These surviving students of this horror were heard by any of these so called Republicans. That shows the truth being spun from their months. Shameful acts of posturing for votes! Was Bush fired of suspended for 911? Was Scott suspended or recalled for dropping the ball on these other shootings? Such B.S in politics today on both sides but at least the Dems have some scope in fixing dire situations
As long as Democrats are for open borders, sanctuary cities, illegal immigration, higher taxes up to 90%, socialism, killing near and full term babies, medicare for all, confiscate all firearms from citizens except those held by criminals and eliminate people’s right to free speech I will continue to VOTE Republican.
When I heard DeSantis did this I was appalled. Political move through and through. No other explanation. One guy is responsible and that’s the kid that pulled the trigger. It’s awful that he is politicizing 22 murders.
Mistakes sure. But the ‘Boss’ can’t be held responsible for a situation that none of his employees had ever encountered before. It was sheer terror.
The 22 people that died deserve more than what DeSantis is trying to do. He should support gun control, safety in schools, memorials for the students and teachers.
Blaming Israel is wrong and quite frankly, stupid.