The state House is preparing subpoenas demanding information from five South Florida government agencies about the confessed killer of 17 people at a Parkland high school in an investigation that will run separate from a review ordered by Gov. Rick Scott.
The House investigation comes amid continued calls by Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and other Republican lawmakers for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to be suspended from office.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is charged with using a semiautomatic rifle Feb. 14 to go on the shooting spree at the Broward County school.
The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee will look at issues involving the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Broward County School Board, Broward County government, the Coral Springs Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. It will look at policies, interactions with Cruz before the shooting and reactions as the massacre unfolded.
The state Department of Children and Families will be asked for similar information through regular legislative channels.
The subpoenas are expected to be ready to go before the House for approval on Wednesday.
The goal, committee Chairman Larry Metz said, is to review timelines and local decision-making so lawmakers can propose changes to “prevent this from ever happening again.”
“Once we get the information in we’ll analyze it and see what we have to do,” Metz, R-Yalaha, said. “I’ve been reading a lot of articles before today in the media coverage. And there’s been a lot of good journalistic investigative reporting. But we shouldn’t be relying on that for our decision-making.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office had numerous previous encounters with Cruz, who also briefly resided in Palm Beach County. At least some of the law-enforcement encounters were deemed by Broward authorities as “routine” parenting issues.
Meanwhile, the Department of Children and Families decided that Cruz, who admitted cutting himself and planning to purchase a gun in Snapchat posts, was a “low” threat to harm himself or others in late 2016.
Scrutiny also has focused on the reaction of Broward deputies during the shooting. A Broward County school-resource officer resigned Thursday after it was determined he failed to enter the school while the shooting was ongoing.
Corcoran, who is expected to run for governor this year, called Friday for the legislative investigation due to an “abject breakdowns at all levels.” Two days later he asked Scott to suspend Broward’s sheriff.
Scott has not suspended Israel but announced Sunday that he has directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the response of law-enforcement authorities to the shooting.
Corcoran appeared Monday on CNN, reiterating his call for Scott to remove Israel from office, while disputing the attempt is a political effort to distract from pressure to increase gun regulations.
“The (state) Constitution says if you have neglect of duty, malfeasance, misfeasance, or incompetence, that we have the right to ask the governor to remove you from office,” Corcoran said. “And he (Israel) scores high on all four points.”
Israel has called Corcoran’s request “politically motivated” and full of “misinformation.”
However, Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat who sits on the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, lent support to Corcoran’s request.
Slosberg said she’s heard from parents and teachers who are upset with Israel for his “failure on a bunch of different levels.”
“Students want more protection at their school, but they don’t trust the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to provide that protection, given just what just happened,” Slosberg said.
With less than two weeks remaining in the session, Metz said his goal is to have each agency respond early next week. The committee investigation isn’t expected to be completed by March 9, the end of the regular session. Metz couldn’t give a timeline for the investigation.
Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, failed to get the Department of Children and Families included among those getting subpoenas.
“I think it’s fair to say that there was a colossal failure of government at many levels,” Richardson said.
Metz said it didn’t appear the department needed to be subpoenaed as “it’s part of state government.”
“We have sufficient oversight responsibility with the budget, we feel we can get the information from them,” Metz said.