Sheriff Scott Israel explaining that if his officer “didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility.” – Image via YouTube.
As disturbing news about the incompetence of the Broward Sheriff’s Office continues to emerge, the families of those killed during the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as other parents at the school, are losing faith in Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and his agency, and are becoming increasingly vocal about their concerns.
As RedState reported, on Monday a Broward deputy was suspended after he was caught sleeping in his patrol car while on duty at Stoneman Douglas.
The officer, Moises Carotti, was parked outside the 1200 building, the very building where the shooting occurred, when he was spotted by a student. While he was sleeping, Zachary Cruz, the 18-year-old brother of the confessed shooter was arrested for trespassing on campus.
The combination of a Broward deputy failing to stay awake while on duty and Cruz’s disturbing comments — he reportedly told the arresting officers that he wanted to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it in” — horrified parents of Stoneman Douglas students.
Add in the growing list of past failures by the BSO — dozens of visits to the shooter’s home that never resulted in an arrest, their policy of avoiding juvenile arrests even for serious and violent crimes, and the four BSO deputies who remained outside the school during the shooting, and Israel’s own clownish attempts to repair his tattered reputation — and it was all too much to take.
“Some parents kept their children home from school Tuesday,” reported CBS Miami, a fact which I have been able to independently confirm. Several parents of students who attend Stoneman Douglas, the middle school next door, and at least one other public school in Broward County, did indeed keep their children out of school yesterday.
“As a parent, it’s reprehensible,” Broward commissioner Michael Udine, whose daughter attends Stoneman Douglas, told CBS Miami. “Parents do not have the confidence to send their children to school right now.”
Also on Tuesday, two Stoneman Douglas students were arrested for bringing knives to campus, and a third was taken into custody for a psychological evaluation under the Baker Act after he posted threatening messages online.
The families of the victims have been in regular contact with Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) since the shooting, offering a unified message of support for the school safety bill he signed earlier this month, and to communicate their concerns to him.
The letter Scott sent to Israel yesterday, ordering the Broward Sheriff’s Office to provide an armed officer at every entrance to Stoneman Douglas and offering assistance from the Florida Highway Patrol, was in direct response to his conversations with these concerned parents.
These parents “are still concerned about student safety at the school,” wrote Scott. “Recent events at the school have demonstrated the need for additional security measures to be implemented.”
One of those concerned parents is Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina Petty was among those killed. Since his daughter’s death, he has been heavily involved in helping organize the families to support legislative reforms in Florida and at the federal level, and recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The painful lesson we learned on Valentine’s Day is, as parents we’ve got to take responsibility for our own kids’ safety,” said Petty. “As parents we all trusted that our kids would be safe in school, between law enforcement and the school district, and it’s clear the parents have learned the lesson, but has the Broward Sheriff’s Office? Has the school district?”
The details about the arrest of Zachary Cruz further raised the parents’ anxiety levels. New York Times Miami Bureau Chief Patricia Mazzei reported that Cruz’s bond was set at $500,000, “unusually high for this offense — in part because it was the third time Cruz was spotted on campus since the shooting.”
Zachary Cruz was arrested Monday for trespassing on Stoneman Douglas High grounds. In a court appearance Tuesday, the judge set his bond at $500K — unusually high for this offense — in part because it was the third time Cruz was spotted on campus since the shooting.
— Patricia Mazzei (@PatriciaMazzei) March 20, 2018
The third time he was spotted on campus. Was he testing the school’s security? Casing the joint like a burglar or bank robber?
Why was he not arrested or monitored more closely during the previous two incidents?
Media widely reported Cruz “openly wept” at his brother’s hearing last week, and recordings of their jailhouse conversations revealed him praising his brother as “popular” and famous, and suggesting that the two of them should start a fan club.
Most concerning he has been at jail to see brother & talking about how popular Nikolas Cruz is now & the brothers should start a fan club @WPBF25News
— Terri Parker (@wpbf_terri) March 20, 2018
The judge who set that half-million-dollar bond also imposed a number of restrictions. If Cruz makes bail, he will be required to wear an ankle monitor, stay at least one mile from Stoneman Douglas and away from any school grounds, stay out of Broward County except for legally required court appointments, and — perhaps most crucially — have zero contact with his brother, the shooter.
Authorities are also reviewing Cruz’s social media posts and his home will be searched for weapons before he will be allowed to return.
Meanwhile, Broward County parents are left wondering why none of these steps could have been taken earlier, and if they’ll ever feel safe sending their children to school again.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.