If you missed today’s interview of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel by Jake Tapper on State of the Union you’ll want to get a big tub of popcorn and watch it now. The Sheriff has been under increasing criticism for his department’s response (or actually lack of response) to the Florida school shooting all week and this was supposed to be the morning where he would explain his actions. The situation was complicated a bit by the fact that part of the anger directed at the Sheriff had to do with his antics at the gun control town hall held earlier this week which, coincidentally, was hosted by Jake Tapper. Israel had been blaming everything on the NRA and a lack of law enforcement resources during that event, but the more we learned about what actually happened on the day of the shooting, the weaker that story seemed.
How much did the Sheriff know about his own men taking cover behind their cars and not entering the school? Did he know that when he did the town hall? So many questions to be answered, but believe me… Tapper asked them all and more. By the time this was done I was describing it as more of a waterboarding than an interview. And it just felt like it kept going on forever. Let’s start with the video and then hit a few of the highlights.
Right out of the gate, Tapper asks him about the other deputies staying outside. Isreal wants to be very clear and claims, “our investigation to this point shows that during this horrific attack, while this killer was inside the school, there was only one law enforcement person period.” He goes on to blame the whole thing on Scott Peterson. But he then goes on for two full minutes casting doubt on his own definitive statement. When Tapper responds by citing what the Coral Springs Police said about there being other deputies there outside when they arrived, Isreal says, “I don’t dispute that, but that is an active investigation.” Jake grills him on that subject for several more questions and it only gets worse.
When Jake asks him if there was a stand-down order given over the radio telling deputies to remain outside until a SWAT team arrived, Isreal says he can’t tell us anything about that and he “hasn’t heard that.” This will prove to be only one of many things Sheriff Isreal “hasn’t heard” or “hasn’t seen” or “doesn’t know” about the events of that day.
Around the nine minute mark, Tapper asks him about the town hall. Did he know all of these things then? Israel dances around the subject uncomfortably and tries to deflect, but Jake keeps coming back at him over and over. Israel never does get around to giving a definitive answer.
From there, if you don’t want to watch the whole interview, feel free to fast forward to right around the 19:45 mark where Tapper really unloads on the Sheriff for his performance and Israel responds with what may be the biggest jaw-dropper of the segment. Here’s the transcript. (Emphasis added)
JAKE TAPPER: Are you really not taking responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward Sheriff’s Office before this incident, whether it was people near him, close to him, calling the police on him…
SHERIFF ISRAEL: Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I’ve given amazing leadership to this agency…
TAPPER: (interrupting) Amazing leadership???
ISRAEL: Yes, Jake. There’s a lot of things we’ve done throughout. You don’t measure a person’s leadership by a person not going into…
TAPPER: Maybe you measure somebody’s leadership by whether or not they protect the community and in this case you’ve listed 23 incidents before the shooting, involving the shooter, and still nothing was done to keep guns out of his hands, to make sure the school was protected, to make sure you were keeping an eye on him. Your deputy failed. I don’t understand how you can sit there and claim “amazing leadership.”
There are plenty more moments like that. As I said, these were just some of the highlights. His comment where he invokes O.J. Simpson is also simply mind bending. Watch it for yourself, and then figure out how this guy can still possibly have a job by the end of the week once the rest of Florida gets to see this interview.