Wasser­man Schultz wants Park­land shoot­ing an­swers from FBI, backs sher­iff

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - LOCAL - By An­thony Man Staff writer

SUN­RISE U.S. Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz said Mon­day she’s like ev­ery­one else with ques­tions about the FBI’s mis­han­dling of tips that might have averted the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High mas­sacre — wait­ing for an­swers from the FBI.

More than two months af­ter the shoot­ing in which 17 peo­ple were killed and 17 wounded, Wasser­man Schultz said she isn’t privy to any in­side in­for­ma­tion about what went wrong at the FBI af­ter it re­ceived tips about gun­man Niko­las Cruz.

“I’d just like an­swers as to how that ball got dropped,” she said dur­ing an ex­change with a small group of re­porters at her district of­fice in Sun­rise.

Wasser­man Schultz said she’s also wait­ing for other in­ves­ti­ga­tions into what hap­pened be­fore and dur­ing the Feb. 14 mas­sacre, in­clud­ing a re­view of the per­for­mance of the Broward Sher­iff ’s Of­fice.

Asked if she has full con­fi­dence in Sher­iff Scott Is­rael, Wasser­man Schultz said: “I have con­fi­dence in Sher­iff Is­rael. But I do want an­swers to the ques­tions, and I know he wants an­swers to the ques­tions that have been asked about how those balls were dropped, and whether they were dropped.”

Crit­ics have faulted the sher­iff’s of­fice over re­peated vis­its to the school shooter’s home be­fore the mas­sacre and a deputy’s fail­ure to enter the school and try to stop the shoot­ing.

On Fri­day, the Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­leased re­ports show­ing at least three deputies ar­rived at Stone­man Dou­glas in time to hear gun­shots but did not im­me­di­ately enter the build­ing where the shoot­ing took place. Some deputies did go into the build­ing; oth­ers ini­tially tried to enter the wrong build­ing.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates for gover­nor and many Repub­li­cans in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have pressed for Is­rael’s re­moval from of­fice, as­sert­ing he’s in­com­pe­tent and has ne­glected his duty.

Wasser­man Schultz, Is­rael, is a Demo­crat.

Be­fore com­ing to con­clu­sions about the per­for­mance of the sher­iff and his agency, Wasser­man Schultz said, “I’m wait­ing for the re­sults of all the in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions. [The Florida Depart­ment of Law En­force­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing] and I as­sume that through their in­ves­ti­ga­tion we’ll know more about what the truth is and what the de­tails are.”

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the shoot­ing, the FBI ad­mit­ted it mis­han­dled a de­tailed warn­ing call to its pub­lic ac­cess line by not pur­su­ing like the tip. The caller warned the FBI that “he’s go­ing to ex­plode” and was con­cerned about Cruz “get­ting into a school and just shoot­ing the place up.” The FBI said it re­ceived an­other tele­phone tip, but it didn’t have enough in­for­ma­tion to pur­sue.

Wasser­man Schultz said mem­bers of Congress and their con­stituents need to know more about what hap­pened at the FBI. “I’m wait­ing for that in­for­ma­tion, and do be­lieve that we should hope­fully have it soon,” adding that she didn’t know if it’s tak­ing too long for the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate and de­tail its find­ings.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can seek­ing his party’s nom­i­na­tion for gover­nor, said af­ter a South Florida cam­paign stop that the FBI hasn’t been forth­com­ing enough or fast enough in hold­ing peo­ple ac­count­able for their er­rors.

“Here we are, geez, al­most two months af­ter the shoot­ing, and no­body from the FBI has lost their job. I mean you think about two tips from the same guy. And not just that he’s dan­ger­ous, but that he might shoot up a school,” DeSan­tis said.

DeSan­tis is a mem­ber of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which re­ceived a closed­door brief­ing from FBI Deputy Di­rec­tor David Bowdich on March 6. “When con­fronted with the lack of ac­tion, he was more wor­ried about due process for the peo­ple that dropped the ball than he is about bring­ing swift ac­count­abil­ity,” DeSan­tis said.

Wasser­man Schultz, a Broward/Mi­ami-Dade County Demo­crat, is a long­time pro­po­nent of firearms re­stric­tions that she be­lieves would re­duce gun vi­o­lence. On Mon­day, she wore a lapel pin with a red let­ter “F” along with the pin that shows she’s a mem­ber of Congress. It rep­re­sents her fail­ing grade from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, some­thing she said she and some other mem­bers of Congress have been wear­ing for a cou­ple of weeks.

She said fig­ur­ing out what went wrong shouldn’t over­whelm ef­forts to take ac­tion on guns.

“Mak­ing sure that we learn what hap­pened — whether it’s the fail­ure of the top line to be fol­lowed up on or the ques­tion of what re­ally hap­pened in terms of why of­fi­cers did or didn’t go into the build­ing — those ques­tions need to be an­swered,” she said.

“But noth­ing should dis­tract us from the fact that if you had far less of an abil­ity to get mil­i­tary-style as­sault weapons, high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines, and do back­ground checks on ev­ery gun pur­chase, we will dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the like­li­hood that shoot­ings like this hap­pen,” Wasser­man Schultz said.

aman@sunsen­tinel.com, 954-356-4550 or Twit­ter @broward­pol­i­tics

Con­gress­woman Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz

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