Scott Israel
Broward Country, Florida, Sheriff Scott Israel addresses news media outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 15, 2018. REUTERS/Thom Baur

Broward County, Florida, Sheriff Scott Israel on Saturday responded to Rep. Bill Hager’s letter to Gov. Rick Scott calling for his ouster, saying it was “riddled with factual errors, unsupported gossip, and falsehoods.”

The Republican lawmaker sent the letter to Scott early Saturday. The sheriff has been under intense scrutiny ever since Coral Springs police officers, who responded to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, claimed Israel’s deputies waited long before entering the school instead of rushing in and apprehending the shooter.

“Various news outlets have confirmed that the School Resource Officer and three Broward Sheriff Deputies were on campus at the time of the attack and chose to take cover themselves rather than stepping up to protect our students. Not one of these trained officers made an effort to enter the building to protect students and teachers and save lives. It was not until deputies from the Coral Springs Police Department arrived, a Department not under the authority of the BSO [Broward Sheriff’s Office], that uniformed officers actually entered the school and took action,” Hager’s letter read.

Israel responded to the letter, saying, “This statement is patently false. Only one law enforcement officer was ever on the campus – at any time – during the attack.”

The sheriff’s letter added the officer present on the school campus was Scot Peterson, who resigned after he was placed on unpaid leave following the incident. Israel told reporters Thursday that Peterson took a defensive position outside the school as the shooting occurred and did not try to stop the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

Israel also said that another of Hager’s statements, claiming 39 visits had been made to Cruz's home the sheriff's deputies before the school shooting, was false.

“BSO had a total of 23 calls for service involving Nikolas Cruz or his family; and 18 of those involved Nikolas directly (the others involved his brother). Of the 18, nearly all but two involved routine calls from the mother relating to parenting issues (her sons were fighting; her son was banging pool equipment against the house; etc).”

The letter went on to say none of the offences were “arrestable,” and only two incidents were under review. Israel also mentioned Cruz was referred by the BSO to receive mental health counselling and medication for 2.5 months from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) after an incident at the school. He did not specify the details of the incident, but said Cruz underwent the treatment, after which the DCF closed the case.

“As BSO only had 23 calls for service (including the 18 involving the killer), Mr. Hager’s claim of ‘39 visits by’ BSO deputies is simply fiction,” the letter continued.

Israel ended the letter with a demand for public apology from Hager.

“I am equally appalled that Rep. Hager felt a need to engage in disingenuous political grandstanding, perhaps in the hope he will garner some headlines, at the expense of the truth. I would urge Rep. Hager to publicly apologize for helping to spreading this false gossip and misinformation.”