Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel defended the work of his agency during a contentious interview with CNN on Sunday morning, as the state's speaker of the House of Representatives joined the voices calling for his ouster.
Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, called for Israel's suspension from office in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott. The letter, dated Sunday and released on Corcoran's Twitter account, asked that Israel be suspended for "incompetence and neglect of duty" in connection the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fatal shooting.
It was signed by Corcoran and 73 other Republican state representatives.
"The failures of Sheriff Israel and his deputies during and after the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ... and their failures to intervene regarding Nikolas Jacob Cruz in the years, months and days leading up to that shooting, are unacceptable and unforgivable," Corcoran wrote.
Scott’s office said he spoke Sunday with Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen and is asking the FDLE to review the Broward sheriff’s office handling of the response to the shooting, according to the Miami Herald.
Israel said that his department would cooperate with the FDLE investigation.
“We believe in full transparency and accountability,” Israel said. “This independent, outside review will ensure public confidence in the findings.”
Israel has been targeted over how his department handled the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead. On Saturday, Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, also asked Scott to remove Israel from office, although Israel said Hager's letter was "riddled with factual errors."
According to the Herald, Scott didn’t address calls for Israel’s removal, only that he wanted a full investigation into the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s response.
Israel defended the Broward Sheriff's Office earlier Sunday on Jake Tapper's CNN show. He said the actions of Deputy Scot Peterson, Douglas' school resource officer, were incorrect at the time of the shooting.
Peterson resigned Thursday after he was suspended without pay and faced likely termination. An initial investigation showed he was outside the building where the shooting took place for at least four minutes. Peterson received active shooter training but did not follow protocols, Israel said earlier Saturday.
"I can only take responsibility for what I knew about," Israel said on CNN's "State of the Union". "I exercised my due diligence. I gave amazing leadership to this agency."
"Amazing leadership?" Tapper interrupted.
"Yes, Jake," Israel said. "There's a lot of things we've done throughout. You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into a ... These deputies received the training they needed..."
"Maybe you measure someone's leadership by whether or not they protect the community," Tapper responded. "In this case, you've listed 23 incidents before the shooting involving the shooter, and still nothing was done to keep guns out of his hands, to keep the school protected, to make sure you're keeping an eye on him. I can't understand how you can sit there and claim amazing leadership."
"On 16 of those cases our deputies did everything right," Israel said. "Our deputies have done amazing things. In the five years I've been sheriff, we've taken the Broward Sheriff's Office to a new level. I work with some of the bravest people I've ever met. At this point, one person didn't do what he should've done. It's horrific. The families -- I pray for them every night. It makes me sick to my stomach a deputy didn't go in."
Corcoran’s letter is as skeptical of Israel’s boast of “amazing leadership” or even competency as Tapper was in the interview.
In it, the congressman illustrates, in detail, a timeline of the official’s complaints and concerns of various people in Cruz’s life over a 5-year period that, but for a week, is the exact amount of time that Israel has been Broward County’s sheriff. Those concerned enough to call the police included Cruz’s mother and the family who took him in when he was orphaned.
Saturday, Hager, who signed Corcoran's letter to Scott, also asked Scott to remove Israel from office. In his own letter to Scott, Israel said Hager falsely claimed Peterson and three other Broward deputies were on campus during the shooting and took cover, saying Peterson was the only deputy on campus at the time.
Israel would later confirm there were three or more deputies outside the building where police officers from Coral Springs arrived, according to the Herald. But he also said that Peterson was the only law enforcement official inside the building while Cruz was there. Israel said investigators would look be looking into whether anyone was acting improperly.
Israel also accused Hager of falsely claiming Broward deputies visited Cruz’s home 39 times. There were 23 calls for service involving Cruz, who confessed to the shooting, or his family. Eighteen involved Cruz directly, and the rest involved his brother, according to the sheriff.
Two other local representatives, MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, and Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach, also signed Corcoran’s letter.
The Associated Press and The Miami Herald contributed to this article.