By Kelli Kennedy and Frieda Frisaro, Associated Press
Florida’s governor failed to justify suspending the sheriff whose department responded to mass shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, a state Senate official said.
In a blow to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Senate special master Dudley Goodlette called for the reinstatement of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel in a report released Wednesday.
Goodlette, who had been appointed by the Senate to look into the suspension process, said DeSantis did not prove the charges in suspending Israel in January.
“While the governor has offered a plethora of criticism, he has not shown that Sheriff Israel’s policies, procedures or trainings on active shooter situations were inconsistent with Florida law enforcement standards,” Goodlette wrote. He added that the shooting was the culmination of “individual failures,” especially on the part of Scot Peterson , the school resource officer on duty that day.
Israel had argued that DeSantis had overreached his authority and suspended him for political reasons, and sought an award for his legal fees in defending his efforts to be reinstated.
The Florida Senate is scheduled to determine Israel’s fate during a special session set to begin Oct. 21.
Goodlette declined to award fees. He said there was some evidence that at first glance could seem to support the governor’s position and that “this was not a situation of executive overreach” on the part of DeSantis.
Goodlette collected evidence and held two days of hearings on the matter in June.
The governor’s office did not immediately comment when reached by phone on Wednesday.
Isreal’s attorneys say they’re optimistic the Senate president and the rest of the Senate will allow him to resume his position as sheriff.
“This is not a time for politics, but for doing the right thing in support of real evidence and the law,” according to a statement from Israel’s attorneys. They said Israel is committed to working with the community in the wake of the shootings to “find solutions.”
Israel’s suspension came after intense criticism, particularly over his handling of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.
Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed in the shooting, said Wednesday, “I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach.”
Alhadeff and several other Parkland parents had pushed the governor to remove Israel, a Democrat. Calls for Israel’s ouster began shortly after the shooting when it was revealed that Peterson, the school’s resource officers, had not gone into the building to confront the shooter, but sought cover outside.
A former student was arrested shortly after the shooting and faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Israel also came under fire for a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January 2017. A gunman who had flown from Alaska opened fire with a handgun he had brought in checked luggage, killing five people and wounding six others. Esteban Santiago-Ruiz, a diagnosed schizophrenic, eventually pleaded guilty to the shooting and is serving a life sentence.
Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.
.@GovRonDeSantis did the righteous thing firing the totally incompetent Scott Israel
His “amazing leadership” let kids get murdered. He tried to get famous on CNN from it. Then he lied again & again
Expected this from Broward voters, not FL Senate judge https://t.co/RaMCt4Tjdb
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) September 25, 2019