A judge dismissed Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel’s lawsuit Thursday challenging his suspension by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the wake of the Parkland school shooting.
DeSantis had accused Israel of failing to prevent the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14, 2018 that left 17 people dead. The Republican governor issued an executive order removing Israel from duty in January.
Israel sued to overturn the removal, claiming DeSantis had overstepped his constitutional authority. Broward Circuit Court Judge David Haimes ruled the order was compliant with Florida’s Constitution, according to The Associated Press.
“I am pleased that the court recognizes my authority as governor to suspend a public official for reasons of neglect of duty and incompetence,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “Now, I will ask the Senate to move forward with the process of the formal removal of Scott Israel. Broward County deserves professional law enforcement leadership that will safeguard the best interests of the community and work diligently for the protection of life.”
Critics and parents of the slain students pressured DeSantis to remove Israel after several revelations after the shooting, starting with the sheriff’s department changing its policy just before the shooting from “shall” to “may” confront shooters.” Eight deputy sheriffs pointed to the new policy to justify not confronting the gunman.
It was also learned that Scot Peterson, the deputy assigned to guard the school, had not entered the building during the shooting, but rather took cover in the parking lot. Additionally, the sheriff’s office had received two previous calls about the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and ignored both. Authorities charged Cruz with 17 counts of first-degree murder and he remains incarcerated.
Israel announced Friday he will appeal the ruling, according to the AP. “The constitutional question involving the Governor’s political use of the limited suspension power is so very important that it should be resolved by Florida’s appellate courts,” Israel’s attorneys said in a statement. “Sheriff Israel’s appeal will ask the appellate judges to constrain the Governor’s suspension and removal power, restricting it to what has historically been allowed for clear violations of constitutional and statutory duties of elected officials.”
The Florida Legislature, which must approve DeSantis’s decision before Israel can be formally removed, has said it will wait for the court proceedings to conclude before taking up the matter.
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