Florida governor vows to hold officials 'accountable' amid reports of planned suspension of sheriff

By Alex Dobuzinskis
FILE PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at his midterm election night party in Orlando, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pledged on Thursday to speak about government accountability at the headquarters of the Broward County sheriff, following speculation he would suspend the official over the police response to the Parkland mass shooting.

DeSantis planned to speak about "holding government officials accountable" on Friday in Fort Lauderdale, at the offices of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, DeSantis' office said in a statement.

The website Politico and the Miami Herald newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported on Thursday that DeSantis planned to suspend Israel and replace him with a former police sergeant from the Broward County city of Coral Springs.

DeSantis, a Republican, while campaigning last year, had expressed interest in suspending Israel over the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, in which 14 students and three adults were shot to death by a lone gunman.

A spokesman for DeSantis declined to comment on media reports that the governor planned to suspend Israel.

DeSantis was scheduled to visit Broward County on Friday with the lieutenant governor and the state attorney general, who is the top law enforcement official in Florida.

The Parkland massacre on Feb. 14, 2018 was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school in U.S. history.

Some parents of students at the high school have criticized Israel and called for his removal, according to local media.

Some Broward County sheriff's deputies held back too long as shots were fired at the school in the massacre, instead of rushing toward the gunfire, according to a 485-page report released last week by a state-appointed commission.

Broward County Sheriff's Office training on active shooters was inadequate, according to the report, which also recommended arming teachers and spending more on school security and mental health to prevent similar mass shootings.

A spokesman for Israel could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The sheriff, a Democrat, on Thursday tweeted a photo of himself at a desk, saying "still doing the job the voters of Broward County elected me to do!"

Broward County sheriff's deputy Scot Peterson, who was assigned as the school's resource officer, resigned last year. He was captured on video staying outside the school during the shooting, which lasted several minutes.

Israel, in an interview with CNN less than two weeks after the shooting, described himself as "disgusted" with Peterson's performance but defended himself. "It's not the responsibility of the general or the president if you have a deserter."

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)