What did Sheriff Scott Israel know about school shooting and when did he know it?

Sheriff spoke politics for a week while damaging secrets were kept from public

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

PARKLAND, Fla. - When President Donald Trump visited the Broward Sheriff's Office days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sheriff Scott Israel not only gladly accepted praise from the commander in chief, but encouraged it. 

"What a great job you've done," Trump said. "I hope you're getting credit for it because, believe me, you deserve it."

"I'm giving them all raises," Israel said. 

"Give them all raises!" Trump echoed as the room erupted in laughter. 

The question now is whether Israel was aware during Trump's visit that his armed school resource deputy at the high school, Scot Peterson, not only failed to enter the building but hid outside for several minutes while the shooting was taking place -- information that was easily accessible from the school's surveillance video. 

While rumors were swirling that Peterson failed to act, Israel spent more than a week asking for increased funding for police, talking about gun control and addressing several other issues, while keeping the public in the dark regarding Peterson.

Four days after the shooting, Israel indicated -- falsely, it turned out -- on Local 10's "This Week in South Florida" that Peterson may have been too far away from the shooting to be effective. 

"He was handling a case with a female student," Israel said. "He ran toward the gunshots. He never encountered the killer. Stoneman Douglas is a 45-acre facility -- it's a big campus. I've talked about getting more police, increasing millage rates." 

Then, a full week after the shooting, Israel appeared at the CNN Town Hall meeting with other politicians and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, and still the public had no idea about Peterson or allegations that three other deputies allegedly also waited outside the building after the shooting. 

"The men and women I've worked with for almost 40 years -- we know how to keep America safe," he said at the meeting.  

Israel spoke about gun control, changing laws to make it easier to Baker Act those with weapons, and again asked that more funding be given to law enforcement. But he didn't mention his own agency's failures.

After the meeting, BSO's own Facebook page praised Israel as a "powerful voice" at the town hall meeting. 

But as the sheriff was making the most of the political moment, rumblings were coming from the Coral Springs Police Department, which was the agency that actually led the response effort and initially stormed the building, while Coral Springs sources said deputies waited outside.

Officials and police officers in the city became increasingly upset about Israel's failure to so much as mention their efforts in the days following the shooting.  

The day after the CNN town hall, Israel finally informed the public about Peterson, as well as sharing disturbing new information on tips BSO had received but failed to act on regarding shooter Nikolas Cruz, including one that he was a "school shooter in the making” received on Nov. 30, two and a half months before the attack.

No report was generated from that warning and Israel has placed two deputies on restricted duty while investigating the apparent failure to act on the red flags concerning Cruz. 

The revelations led for calls for Israel's resignation on both the national and local level, with the hashtag #resignsheriffisrael trending on Twitter for a time.

In addition, 74 GOP state lawmakers asked that Gov. Rick Scott remove Israel from office for incompetence and neglect of duty. But Israel insisted during a CNN interview Sunday that the BSO failures were not his own, saying he had given "amazing leadership" in the aftermath of the shooting.  

"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books," Israel said. 

"I don't know what you mean," CNN's Jake Tapper said. "There's 17 dead people and there's a whole long list of things your department could have done differently." 

"How could … that's what after-action reports are," Israel said. "That's for … lessons-learned reports are for."

During the interview, Israel claimed he didn't know about Peterson's inaction "for days," but admitted he knew of it prior to the CNN town hall.

He claimed during the interview he didn't see the school surveillance video until Thursday after the town hall.

"It wasn't my job to look at the video," he said. "It was investigators' job to look at the video."

Israel also said he had yet to listen to his own agency's radio transmissions at the time of the interview -- 11 days after the shooting.

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