The sheriff of Broward County has described the February 14 high school shooting in his jurisdiction as “Catastrophic. There are really no words.” Sheriff Scott Israel has been in office since January 2013 having been elected to the office on a Democrat ticket the previous month. The Broward County Sheriff’s office is among the largest accredited sheriff’s office in the country. Sheriff Israel was reelected in 2016 by the largest winning margin of any Broward County sheriff in 30 years.
Sheriff Israel is the first Jewish sheriff in Florida history. Prior to taking on the role had been a 30-year police veteran in South Florida with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the North Bay Village Police Department. Upon his election, Sheriff Israel promised to tackle, among other thing, the levels of gun violence in the region. Directly under Sheriff Israel is his under service, Colonel Steve Kinsey.
On February 14, 2017, police say gunman Nicolas Cruz went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and began opening fire. At the time writing, reports say as many as 17 people were killed. Cruz was taken into custody by the Broward County Sheriff’s office at the scene.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sheriff Israel Has Publicly Stated Before that He Doesn’t Believe Mentally Ill People Should Have Access to Guns
In the wake of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting in January 2017 when police say Esteban Santiago-Ruiz shot-and-killed five people and injured six others, Sheriff Israel was thrust into the national spotlight. The Miami Herald reported at the time that Sheriff Israel was calling for a ban on assault rifles to be reinstated. Sheriff Israel also said that he didn’t believe that people with mental illness should have access to firearms sought the closing of the “gun show loophole.” The sheriff said at the time, “All I’m going to do is speak my mind. If I’m on an island, I’m on an island. I’m not going to worry about who is with me or who is not.”
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, Sheriff Israel told CBS Miami that mass shooting events were “impossible to stop.” The sheriff said, “You play as you train and that’s what we have to do. I have a commitment to never stop the training from this agency.”
2. Sheriff Israel Calls Himself an ‘Old Fashioned Street Cop’ Who ‘Just Wants to Make the Streets Safe’
In a 2014 interview about Sheriff Israel’s home life, he said of himself and his philosophy, “I understand the power of the position, but I’m just an old-fashioned street cop who wants to make the streets safe.” That same interview mentions Sheriff Israel’s busy life with his wife, Susan, and their triplets, Brett, Blake and Blair. Brett says in the article, “You have to be on your best behavior” when you’re the sheriff’s son.
3. Sheriff Israel’s Son Was Once the Starting Quarterback for Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School
According to Sheriff Israel’s official profile, he’s a former high school football coach and recipient of the Brian Piccolo Coach of the Year award. In high school, Sheriff Israel had been the quarterback of his high school team. While in 2014, the sheriff’s son, Brett Israel, was the starting quarterback for Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. All of their kids attended the school with Blair being a safety on the football team as well as a midfielder in lacrosse and Blake being a sprinter on the track team.
In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, Sheriff Israel said that he is a practicing Jewish person and his wife is a practicing Christian. He said of their mixed-faith marriage, “I am Jewish. Susan is Christian. Like most families with parents of different faiths, we raised our children with extensive exposure to both our faiths. The triplets were all bar/bat mitzvah’ed. Now that the triplets are adults, they each have the freedom to choose to decide their own faith.”
4. Sheriff Israel’s Wife Is an Activist Who Has Previously Fundraised for a Charity Called Rockers in Recovery
Sheriff Israel’s wife, Susan, has previously worked for a charity recovery group known as Rockers in Recovery. Susan Israel is quoted on the group’s website, after she organized an event for them, “My husband and I participated in Rockers in Recovery’s fundraiser for the Special Olympics and we were impressed with how organized and professional the RIR event was. RIR and the Rockers in Recovery band are making a difference because they are leading by example. People believe recovery is possible when they realize they are not struggling alone. RIR’s message is one that resonates with every community. The great lengths they take help those who cannot help themselves is truly inspirational.”
According to her Facebook page, Susan is a financial planner at Creative Financial Network in Fort Lauderdale. Susan is a native of Hinckley, Ohio, and is a graduate of Highland High School in Medina, Ohio.
5. Sheriff Israel Says His Jewish Faith Played a Huge Role in Influencing His Decision to Become a Cop
In August 2016, part of Sheriff Israel’s campaign centered around his faith. The sheriff was quoted on one of his ad posters as saying, “My Jewish faith is a central part of my central life. My late father Sonny Israel fought in the Korean War and became a police officer because he believed in the call from the Talmud that, “Whoever save one life saves an entire world.” Those words guided my brother and I, as we also became police officers.”