Sun Sentinel StaffWPEC-Ch. 12
Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday ordered an independent investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the response by the Broward Sheriff’s Office to the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

The move comes less than 24 hours after a Republican lawmaker asked Scott to remove Broward Sheriff Scott Israel from office for incompetence and neglect of duty regarding his agency’s response to the shooting.

The FDLE investigation will begin immediately, said a statement released by the Governor’s Office Sunday afternoon.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Sunday saying that it welcomed the investigation.

“BSO will fully cooperate with FDLE, as we believe in full transparency and accountability,” Israel said in a written statement. “This independent, outside review will ensure public confidence in the findings.”

Criticism and questions about missteps by the Sheriff’s Office have steadily increased since the Feb. 14 attack. The agency has come under scrutiny for its failure to flag Nikolas Cruz as a potential threat despite repeated warnings from those close to him about his volatile and erratic behavior. The reports received by the agency included a warning that Cruz was collecting guns and knives and fears he was a school shooter in the making.

Then last week Israel revealed that the School Resource Officer at Douglas failed to enter the school and confront the gunman after the shooting started. Deputy Scot Petersen, who was armed, stood outside the building for about 4 minutes as students and teachers were shot in their classrooms. Israel suspended Petersen, who then resigned.

Reports surfaced on Friday that Coral Springs Police were claiming two more deputies did not enter the school when they should have.

Rep. Bill Hager (Boca Raton), the chairman of the Florida House of Justice Appropriations, has called on Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel — a power the governor has under Florida law — from his post for neglect of duty and incompetence in regards to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In his letter to the governor on Saturday, Hager said that various media outlets reported that the School Resource Officer, Scot Peterson, and three deputies under Sheriff Israel’s command “were on campus at the time of the attack and chose to take cover themselves rather than stepping up to protect our students.”

Rep. Hager also mentioned the number of times police were called to Nikolas Cruz‘s home.

“The Sheriff was fully aware of the threat this individual presented to the community and chose to ignore it,” Rep. Hager said.

A few hours later, Sheriff Israel responded with his own letter to the governor.

In it, the sheriff states Rep. Hager’s “reckless letter was riddled with factual errors, unsupported gossip, and falsehoods.”

Among the claims Sheriff Israel makes in his letter, he says that Rep. Hager falsely stated that there were three Broward Sheriff Deputies on campus at the time of the shooting who did not step in to protect students. The sheriff claims the only officer on scene at the time was School Resource Officer Scot Peterson — and that he was the only one who did not enter the school durin-the shooting.

Hager continued to remind the governor that this wasn’t the first time a review of the Broward Sheriff’s Office has been conducted. He said that, according to reporting conducted by a local journalist, a report after the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting in 2017 found that the sheriff’s office failed to set up a unified command structure, among other faults during the emergency.

Hager’s legislative aid said that due to this, the representative proposes “that certain dollars currently scheduled for appropriation for the Broward Sheriff’s Office be redirected…to initiate a pilot program in Broward County that will integrate and analyze data from various law enforcement, courts, state agencies, and school districts to better assess risk and keep our citizens safe.”