Three media organizations have sued the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in order to get access to surveillance video from outside Stoneman Douglas High School. But the office, run by Sheriff Scott Israel, is refusing to release the video claiming it is part of an ongoing investigation. From the Sun-Sentinel, one of the papers involved in the lawsuit:
The South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Miami Herald and CNN filed the civil lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court, citing Florida’s public records law. The lawsuit names the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the School Board of Broward County, as well as Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent Robert Runcie, in their official roles, as defendants.
The lawsuit seeks access to video from cameras outside the Parkland school on the day of the shooting and cites the “extreme public interest” in figuring out precisely what happened.
Attorneys wrote that the shocking nature of the crime, which left 17 people dead and 16 injured, has sparked “fervent discussion about school safety, gun violence, and gun safety.”
“Specifically, the response of law enforcement officers during the shooting and immediately thereafter is of extreme public interest. Moreover, the details of actions by law enforcement officers — in particular the armed school resource officer at the school — have been publicly disclosed by Sheriff Scott Israel,” attorneys Dana McElroy and James McGuire wrote in the lawsuit.
We know at least one thing the video would show: Deputy Scot Peterson failed to enter the building during the shooting. There are also reports that three other Broward County deputies stood outside with Peterson and that no one went inside until officers from a neighboring police force showed up.
If those reports are accurate, the video would look very bad for Sheriff Scott Israel who is already facing calls for his resignation. Fortunately for Sheriff Israel, he’s in a position to make sure that video does not wind up plastered all over CNN. From the Miami Herald:
The school board says it turned over its recordings and server to BSO investigators after being served with a search warrant and no longer has the records. The sheriff’s office has argued that the requested recordings — which do not include footage taken from the interior of the freshman building where Cruz did his killing — are exempt from Florida’s broad public records laws because they reveal security plans and are part of active criminal and internal affairs investigations.
“We’re not going to disclose the video at this time,” Sheriff Scott Israel said last week during a news conference in which he acknowledged that a deputy assigned to the school waited outside the building where Cruz killed 17 people and wounded 15 others, and never tried to stop the attack. “We may never disclose the video, depending on the prosecution [of Cruz] and the criminal case.”
There’s another angle to consider here. Sheriff Israel is a partisan Democrat, one who made a point of blaming the NRA on television last week even as he failed to mention that his own deputy never entered the school during the attack. Releasing the video would create a shift in emphasis and put the failures of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, including the numerous calls to 911 by Cruz’s mother, front and center. The video would be the concrete proof for many viewers that gun control is not the only issue that needs to be discussed in the wake of this terrible crime. But by not releasing it, Israel helps to keeps the focus on the student push for gun control, including their daily attacks on the NRA.
Scott Israel has both personal and partisan reasons for keeping this video under wraps. That’s all the more reason a judge should take it out of his hands and release it to the media.