Since 2012, there have been more than 66 investigations into the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, 40 of them occurring under embattled Sheriff Scott Israel’s watch, investigative journalist Sara Carter reported Tuesday.
The investigations by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office are for serious misconduct, ranging from drug trafficking to kidnapping to in some cases killings, according to a Brady list provided by the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
Now Israel’s office is under investigation for allegations that his deputies blocked first responders from treating patients at the scene of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, and failed to enter the school during the rampage that left 17 people dead.
Amid growing calls over the weekend for Israel to resign, the embattled sheriff has refused to take any responsibility for failures of his department.
Yet records show that Broward County police responded to at least 45 calls involving suspected Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz or his family over a seven-year period. Israel disputes the report, saying that his office only received 23 calls during that time frame, but whether the number is 23 or 45 or something in between, the calls were serious and should have led the department to take action. They included incidents in which Cruz “held a gun up to his mom’s head” (a felony), imbibed gasoline, cut himself, and rubbed “his hands in glee thinking of the inheritance that he was going to get as a result of his adopted father dying.”
While Israel is battling allegations that his office failed to appropriately respond to the Cruz shooting, he is also fighting a civil court case brought by the family of Jermaine McBean, an African-American information technology engineer. McBean was killed in 2013 by Israel’s deputies after they responded to a call that McBean was walking in his neighborhood with what appeared to be a weapon. It was an unloaded air rifle.
McBean, who was listening to music on his earbuds, had just purchased the air rifle and was taking a 10-minute walk home from the store when the bag covering his air rifle blew off. A motorist called 911 saying they saw a man with what appeared to be a weapon but then stated to the 911 officer that it may be an air rifle, according to court records. McBean was eventually confronted by the Sheriff’s deputies Peter Peraza, Lt. Brad Ostroff and Sgt. Richard Laccera when he reached his apartment.
According to David Schoen, the attorney representing McBean’s family in the civil case against the defendants and Israel, witnesses at the scene said McBean’s air rifle was resting on his shoulders, with his arms slung over. McBean couldn’t hear the officers through the earbuds. According to witnesses and court records he eventually turned around and when he did, Peraza fired the shots that led to McBean’s death. Peraza, who had only been working as a deputy for a year, stated to the courts that he feared for his life.
Attorney David Schoen told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday evening that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has an open investigation into the shooting.
“Ultimately, the sheriff ratified the policy that happened,” Shoen said. “It’s a matter of not acknowledging mistakes.”
Three months after the shooting, according to Carter’s report, Israel actually awarded two deputies involved in the shooting with the BSO’s prestigious “Gold Cross Award.”
But under mounting criticism he later told reporters the deputies should not have received the awards, adding that he didn’t award the deputies but couldn’t investigate the matter because someone accidentally destroyed the paperwork, as reported.
More than two years after the shooting the deputy Peraza was finally suspended, and only after he was indicted for homicide, but “a local judge dismissed the indictment on stand your ground, allowing the deputy to avoid a jury trial,” according to Schoen. The Florida Supreme Court, however, has vacated the lower court’s order and taken the case on review.
“Somebody needs to look at the leadership qualities Sheriff Israel’s bringing to Broward County here, to the sheriff’s department,” Carter said. “These aren’t just slight misconduct,” she added. “There is something going on in Broward County Sheriff’s Department office and Sheriff Israel is the leader and it appears someone needs to be asking some very serious questions about what’s going on there,” she said.