DeSantis suspends Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel

Former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony appointed to replace Israel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Scott Israel is out as Broward County sheriff.

Just three days after taking the oath of office, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended the embattled two-term sheriff Friday and appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony to fill the role.

"Today I have issued an executive order suspending Scott Israel as the sheriff of Broward County," DeSantis announced outside the Broward Sheriff's Office headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.

His words drew a large applause from those in attendance.

The move had long been expected after DeSantis vowed during his campaign to remove the sheriff in the wake of his department's failures during last year's Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Much of the perceived faults of the Broward Sheriff's Office were outlined in the lengthy Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report submitted to the governor's office last week.

The report outlined flawed procedures within the BSO and detailed how former school resource Deputy Scot Peterson failed to engage the shooter.

Several Parkland parents joined the governor for his announcement.

"Our community and our kids will be much safer now that Sheriff Israel is out of office," Pollack, whose daughter was among the 14 students and three faculty members killed, said.

Five members of the BSO command staff also resigned Friday, two of them citing the unjust decision by DeSantis. 

Undersheriff Stephen Kinsey and Maj. Chadwick Wagner both listed the unjust suspension of Israel in their separation forms. Lt. Col. John Dale, Col. James Polan and Maj. Kevin Shults cited personal reasons for their departures.

Israel was criticized for touting his "amazing leadership" during a CNN interview in the days after the shooting.

"There was no wrongdoing on my part," Israel said shortly after the governor's announcement. "I served the county honorably."

Israel said he intends to "vigorously fight this unjustified suspension," calling it the fulfillment of a political promise, and looks forward to returning to office soon.

"This was about politics, not about Parkland," Israel said.

Israel said he would fight the suspension in court and before the Florida Senate.

His attorney, Stuart Kaplan, said the only person who should be held responsible for the tragedy in Parkland is gunman Nikolas Cruz.

"Now, there certainly were some shortcomings and there were some mistakes made," Kaplan said, adding that none of them "rise to the level to single out Sheriff Israel and hold him accountable for what happened."

Israel has resisted calls for his resignation, including from some parents whose children were victims of the Parkland school shooting.

Former state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, wrote a letter to then-Gov. Rick Scott in February, urging him to suspend Israel for "incompetence and neglect of duty." Israel fired back, calling it "disingenuous political grandstanding."

In April, the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association gave Israel a vote of no-confidence.

Tony's appointment makes him the first black sheriff in the history of Broward County.

"I do believe we've got the right guy," Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the shooting, said.

Those Parkland parents in attendance praised Tony's background and leadership, as did DeSantis.

"His expertise are in things like active shooters, defending schools," DeSantis said. "You couldn't have anyone who would be more tailor-made for this position."

Tony promised to restore the confidence of the residents of Broward County and had a message for the employees whom he now leads.

"I can only provide the immediate comfort of saying this: I am not here for any type of political, grandiose or agenda," Tony said. "I'm here to serve."

Meanwhile, backed by Kaplan and local black clergy, Israel said he isn't going away.

"For now, it's on to court," Israel said.