Los Angeles Times

Parkland sheriff loses in Florida high court

Ruling says governor was within his rights to suspend Scott Israel after school shooting raised concerns.

- Associated press

MIAMI — The Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a sheriff who fought his removal from office after the governor said he failed to prevent last year’s Parkland school shooting.

Florida’s highest court agreed that Gov. Ron DeSantis was within his authority to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel earlier this year. The justices noted that under the Florida Constituti­on, the state Senate is responsibl­e for deciding whether the removal should be permanent.

“Today’s Florida Supreme Court opinion leaves no doubt of my authority as governor to suspend a government official for neglect of duty and incompeten­ce,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Scott Israel failed in his duties to protect the families and students of Broward County, and the time for delay tactics is at an end. I look forward to the Florida Senate resuming the process of formal removal.”

DeSantis suspended Israel from his elected position in January and appointed an acting sheriff. Besides blaming Israel for allowing the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead, DeSantis has also criticized Israel’s leadership during a mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in early 2017.

Israel has said DeSantis oversteppe­d his authority and interfered with the public’s right to elect their sheriff.

Israel’s attorney, Ben Kuehne, has said DeSantis, a Republican, removed Israel, a Democrat, from office for political and partisan reasons. Calls for Israel’s ouster began when it was revealed that the deputy assigned to guard the school, Scot Peterson, had not gone inside to confront the shooter, but took cover outside.

The heat increased after it was learned the sheriff’s office received and disregarde­d a call in 2016 and another in 2017 warning that suspect Nikolas Cruz, now 20, was a potential school shooter. Deputies also had about 20 contacts with Cruz as a juvenile — mostly over arguments with his now-deceased mother.

Israel has said none of those contacts warranted an arrest. Law enforcemen­t members of the state commission investigat­ing the shooting have agreed.

Cruz remains jailed, charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder.

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