Miami (AFP) – Florida’s governor on Friday suspended the sheriff who oversaw the response to last year’s Parkland school shooting over failings in his handling of the massacre.
Governor Ron DeSantis said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel had “repeatedly failed” and “demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership” following shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Fort Lauderdale airport in 2017.
At a press conference, the newly-elected Republican went so far as to say the Parkland massacre, which killed 17, “might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”
But Democrat Israel, 62, accused DeSantis of having political motives — arguing that that there were no suspensions following a 2016 shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, which left 49 dead.
“The difference is I spoke out against gun violence,” he said.
“This is about politics, not about Parkland,” he added, vowing to fight the “unjustified” suspension in court and the Florida Senate.
A commission investigating the school shooting published a report last week lamenting the “abysmal response” of the in-school police officer and a lack of action upon Broward sheriff’s deputies’ arrival at the building.
DeSantis named Gregory Tony, a veteran of the police department in Coral Springs, Broward County, as Israel’s replacement.
He is the president of Blue Spear Solutions, a private security firm that specializes in providing training for responding to shootings and attacks like that seen in Parkland.
Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is awaiting trial, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty for 17 murder charges and 17 attempted murder charges.