TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A state senator from South Florida who has stood with Parkland parents since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School explained Tuesday why she voted to reinstate suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Israel from office in January, citing "neglect of duty and incompetence."
The Florida Senate Rules Committee voted 9-7 on Monday recommending Israel's removal. Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, was among the seven senators who voted to reinstate him.
Book has been united with the parents of the Parkland victims, so her vote came as a shock to some, like the mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, who was killed in the February 2018 mass shooting.
"That was the decision she made and she needs to be -- you know, she's accountable for her vote and the choices that she makes," Lori Alhadeff told Local 10 News reporter Roy Ramos.
Book, whose district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke about the reasoning behind her vote.
"If we don't reinstate the former sheriff, you're not going to be able to hold former Deputy (Scot) Peterson accountable," Book said.
Peterson was the former school resource deputy who failed to engage the shooter. He has been charged with child neglect, perjury and culpable negligence in connection with the shooting.
Book said she's worried if Israel isn't reinstated, a defense attorney could clear Peterson of any wrongdoing.
"If we are removing Sheriff Israel for not providing adequate training, you can't then at the same time say that he had the training," Book said.
All 40 senators are expected to convene Wednesday to decide whether Israel should get his job back.
Ahead of that vote, many Parkland parents were meeting with lawmakers in hopes of preventing a similar tragedy.
"The families are still going around speaking to different senators, trying to keep telling them the facts and let the facts drive their decision and their vote," Lori Alhadeff said.
Israel has argued that his suspension was politically motivated. Monday's vote was decidedly partisan, with all nine Republicans recommending Israel's removal and all seven Democrats recommending his reinstatement.
The recommendation for removal was contrary to Special Master Dudley Goodlette's recommendation.
Israel's attorney, Ben Kuehne, said in a statement Tuesday that his client "is disappointed by the Senate Rules Committee's abandonment of the rule of law and principles of fundamental fairness by its exercise of brute political force yesterday."
"Sheriff Israel hopes the full Senate will fairly deliberate on the special master's report recommending the sheriff's reinstatement, the only just and proper result based on the governor's failure to prove any ground for the removal from an office to which Sheriff Israel was elected by a landslide margin," Kuehne went on to say. "The people of Broward County deserve their right to choose their sheriff by election."
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