Amid growing public outcry over systemic failures that thwarted any meaningful intervention before the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is making a desperate attempt to convince people he knows how to do his job, by bragging about arresting a 16-year-old for making one online threat to kill students.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) touted the arrest in a tweet posted earlier today, along with a link to a press release:
A 16-year-old Pompano Beach boy who threatened to kill students and had a pipe bomb in his home was arrested Monday night. Read more: https://t.co/F6ehVmPTYg
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) February 27, 2018
The text of the press release reads as follows:
16-YEAR-OLD ARRESTED IN ONLINE THREAT POSSESSED PIPE BOMB
A 16-year-old Pompano Beach boy who threatened to kill students and had a pipe bomb in his home was arrested Monday night.
Around 4 p.m. Feb. 26, the teen was playing an online video game when he made the alarming statement. A tipster called Boca Raton Police Department about the teen. The police investigated, and when they discovered the teen lived in Broward County, Boca Raton police notified the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
BSO deputies responded to the suspect’s Pompano Beach home and found a homemade pipe bomb and weapons. Deputies with BSO’s bomb squad, violent crimes and strategic investigations divisions responded, along with Homeland Security and the FBI.
The teen is facing a felony charge for possessing explosives.
BSO encourages everyone to continue reporting any suspected threats by calling 954-764-HELP (4357) or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477). Threats will be thoroughly investigated. Anyone found in violation of the law will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Let me get this straight.
A teenager made one online threat to kill students, the BSO went to his home, found weapons and a homemade pipe bomb, seized them and arrested the teenager.
Just one threat and the BSO springs into action!
Too little, too [bleep]ing late.
Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz made multiple online threats, using multiple social media platforms, that specifically mentioned shooting up his school — plus additional verbal threats against students and teachers — and the BSO never saw a reason to arrest him. Police officers made dozens of visits to Cruz’s home, but never took steps to seize his weapons.
Add in the information we have learned about how BSO protocols did not require deputies to engage active shooters and a what appears to be a systemic effort to avoid arresting juveniles, even when they have committed acts of violence or made serious threats, and this breathless announcement about arresting a 16-year-old wannabe pipe bomber looks even more ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong: I am glad the tip was taken seriously, and extremely glad he was arrested and his weapons and pipe bomb materials seized before anyone was hurt.
But does anyone reasonably believe that the BSO would have responded with such furious speed if their office weren’t under the glare of a scorching national magnifying glass at the moment?
The Florida Legislature is spending the final weeks of their legislative session debating several proposals from Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) and the House and Senate regarding potential gun control measures, improvements to mental health screenings, and additional security resources for schools, among other items, but the law has not changed yet.
There is no difference between what this 16-year-old did once, and what Nikolas Cruz did multiple times, on multiple online platforms, observed by multiple witnesses, and as the subject of multiple complaints, except today the BSO desperately needs to save face and Sheriff Israel is desperately trying to defend his job.
Making a threat to kill or harm another person is a crime in Florida. As the Miami Herald reported, if Cruz had been arrested for even one of these threats, it would have likely resulted in him having to surrender any firearms in his possession, as well as legally prohibiting him from buying any more.
Threats to kill or harm are felonies in Florida, and yet somehow this maniac who kept threatening to kill people never faced a single charge. Charges or convictions would have barred his gun purchase.
— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) February 27, 2018
A similar situation played out today on the other side of the state, when a man was arrested for making a death threat against former Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) on Twitter, and he “was also ordered to surrender all firearms and ammunition to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.”
Guy threatens @DavidJollyFL on twitter, is arrested & “was also ordered to surrender all firearms and ammunition to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.”
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) February 27, 2018
Again, all reasonable people are glad the 16-year-old was thwarted (and the Clearwater man too) before any innocent people came to harm, but it does not for one minute absolve Sheriff Israel or the BSO from their many, many, many, many, many failures to take action to stop Nikolas Cruz.
This article has an image of Sheriff Israel in clown makeup on his face (courtesy of the photoshop skills of Caleb Howe), but that’s only because a more honest portrayal of him with blood on his hands would be far too gruesome.
“BSO encourages everyone to continue reporting any suspected threats,” said the BSO press release, promising that “[t]hreats will be thoroughly investigated” and “[a]nyone found in violation of the law will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.”
If only such promises had been kept a few months ago.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.