Florida sheriff says only 1 deputy was on scene during shooting

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Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. | Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

The head of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office defended his leadership while insisting that only one of his deputies was on the scene of a shooting at a Florida high school that resulted in 17 deaths.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told CNN on Sunday that investigators are looking into claims that three other deputies were on the scene but failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when the chance to save lives still existed. To date, the investigation pointed to only one deputy being on campus while the killer was present, he said.

Israel also labeled as “absolutely untrue” reports that the deputies waited outside even though children were inside the building needing urgent medical treatment.

Israel and the sheriff’s office have come under scrutiny after last week’s revelation that deputy Scot Peterson did not go in to confront the shooter during the Valentine’s Day attack. It is also facing backlash for apparently mishandling some of the 18 tipster calls related to the suspected shooter.

Rep. Bill Hager, a Republican lawmaker from Boca Raton, is calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Israel from office because his office ignored red flags about 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz. Meanwhile, Scott demanded on Sunday full transparency and accountability from the sheriff in an interview with Fox News.

Israel vowed not to resign, saying he has shown “amazing leadership.” He said Hager’s letter “was full of misinformation” and “shameful, politically motivated.”

Israel said a deputy who responded to a Nov. 30 call referring to Cruz as a “school shooter in the making” was being investigated by internal affairs for not filing a report. The sheriff said the employee was placed on restrictive duty.

“There needed to be report. And that’s what we are looking into— that a report needed to be completed, it needed to be forwarded to either Homeland Security or a violent crimes unit,” Israel said.

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The shooting happened about 6 p.m. in the 3300 block of West Flournoy Street.