FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — New Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel Friday over his handling of February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The Republican governor flew to Fort Lauderdale three days after taking office to remove the Democratic sheriff, appointing a former police sergeant to serve as acting sheriff. Gregory Tony, 40, worked for Coral Springs police for 12 years before leaving in 2016 to start a company specializing in active-shooter training. He is the first African-American to serve as Broward’s sheriff.
DeSantis’ office issued a statement saying, “Sheriff Israel has … demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership. He failed to protect Floridians and visitors during the tragic Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting in 2017. He failed to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. These incidents demonstrate Sheriff’s Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty.”
The statement added, “The families of the victims deserve accountability.” Minutes after DeSantis’ announcement, Israel said he would fight the suspension.
“There was no wrongdoing on my part. I served the county honorably,” he said. “False narratives may continue, but not in a court of law. In a court of law, only the facts matter.”
Israel said he “wholeheartedly” rejected the governor’s order and would fight it in court, arguing that DeSantis was making a “power grab” against the will of the county’s people who elected him.
Under Florida law, the governor can suspend elected officials for criminal activity, misfeasance, incompetence or neglect of duty. Israel’s lawyer, Stuart Kaplan, said this week the sheriff did nothing warranting removal and his future should be left to Broward voters in the 2020 election. Israel had been sheriff six years.