Bad Sheriff in Town: Newspaper Endorses Disgraced Ex-Sheriff Blamed for Deadly 2018 School Shooting

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Posted: Jul 17, 2020 4:00 PM
Bad Sheriff in Town: Newspaper Endorses Disgraced Ex-Sheriff Blamed for Deadly 2018 School Shooting

Source: Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

The South Florida Sun Sentinel announced on Friday that it has endorsed disgraced former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel as the Democratic candidate in the upcoming election. Israel previously held the post from 2013 until he was suspended and ultimately removed from his post in 2019. 

Israel became a household name in early 2018 after 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, within the territory he oversaw as sheriff. The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, entered the building on February 14 and opened fire, taking 17 lives and injuring 17 others. 

During the shooting, which lasted a total of six minutes, an armed sheriff's deputy waited four minutes before entering the building. Israel condemned the actions of that deputy at the time, saying he should have "went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer." That deputy, Scot Peterson, resigned shortly thereafter.

Later, however, criticism shifted to Israel when it was discovered that two other sheriff's deputies may have also declined to enter the building as the sounds of screams and gunshots rang out from the high school. Coral Springs police arrived on scene later, expressing shock that the deputies had not gone into the building. 

Amid criticism over not acting on warnings about Cruz's behavior prior to the shooting, Israel admitted that his office had fielded about two dozen calls that involved Cruz and his brother. Investigative journalists later discovered that as many as 45 calls regarding Cruz had been placed to the sheriff's office over a ten-year period. 

Israel admitted sometime later that he had altered the wording for an active shooter policy for his deputies, changing the directive from "shall" enter an active shooter situation to "may" enter. Israel was slammed for the policy change, which contradicted his statement that Peterson should have "went in."

As more questions were raised in the aftermath of the school shooting, the Sun Sentinel repeatedly published articles calling Israel a "failed leader" who "stumbled badly" and was "disastrous." Their endorsement of him at this time marks a complete 180-degree turn from the position they took in the weeks and months following the tragic shooting. 

In 2019, incoming Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Israel for his actions surrounding the tragedy in Parkland and also for his lackluster leadership during a 2017 shooting at a Ft. Lauderdale airport. That suspension was upheld by the Florida Senate last fall. 

Now, the Sun Sentinel has thrown their weight behind Isreal, against the wishes of the residents of South Florida, the elected leaders, and the state governor. The Newspaper says that although Israel is imperfect, he's the best pick among an unimpressive lineup of possibilities. 

The six-way Democratic primary for Broward County sheriff is one of those elections without an ideal choice, in which the question is simply which of the viable candidacies is the better one. That is why we recommend Scott Israel, the former sheriff.

Critics have noted the far-left slant of the Sun Sentinel editorial board, marking their choice to endorse Israel at this time as a move to do nothing more than anger Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. The newspaper avoided mention of partisan politics in their endorsement, instead flippantly dismissing the concerns of grieving parents and families affected by the Parkland shooting. 

This has been our most difficult endorsement decision. We recognize that it will be poorly received among the families shattered by the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a former student firing a military-style semi-automatic rifle left 17 students and faculty dead, and 17 injured. Their grief is beyond anyone’s comprehension and deserves respect.

Despite having called for Israel's suspension in 2018, however, the editorial board claimed to have a total change of heart and now they blame the FBI and the school board, not the sheriff whose deputies were operating under the impression they did not need to go inside a school to help children being murdered. 

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Israel could not have prevented the tragedy. The school system was more to blame. So was the FBI, which did nothing about a credible warning of a potential school shooter.

Israel’s most serious failing was a policy that left it to a deputy’s discretion whether to engage an active shooter.

Overall, Israel had been a good sheriff.

Response to the endorsement was overwhelmingly negative, with people quickly pointing out that Israel's policies and lack of action against the shooter at Parkland likely led to the deaths of children and teachers. Dana Loesch further pointed out the Sun Sentinel's own previous work to remove Israel from his post. 

"Sun Sentinel called Israel’s leadership 'disastrous,'" Loesch said. "The Sun hates Ron DeSantis so much they’ll back an embarrassment to the badge whose incompetency cost lives. The Sun is garbage.