Second deputies union comes out in support of Scott Israel

A second deputies union came out in support of the embattled Broward County sheriff Saturday after the largest deputies union called for a vote of no confidence against Scott Israel.

Eddison Ricketts, president of the the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 53, wrote a letter to Israel Saturday.

“I want to reassure you that we have complete confidence in your abilities to lead the Broward Sheriff’s Office today and beyond,” Ricketts said. 

The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association announced Friday that the group, which represents 1,325 deputies, more than half of the county’s 2,560 certified deputies, would hold a vote of no confidence.

Deputy Jeff Bell, who also serves as president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, said the vote was driven by how Israel handled the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Voting, done electronically, will wrap up Thursday.

Israel called the vote “unfortunate and appalling” and characterized it as a bargaining tactic to “extort” the county into giving the deputies a pay raise.

Israel has been widely criticized for his agency’s response to the Valentine’s Day mass shooting that left 17 people dead.

Officials at another county police union, the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, said they are for the results of an independent investigation before passing judgment.

“This is the work of another union and does not represent how the members of the PBA feel,” said Bob Lahiff, director of BSO membership services. “We will let the (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) investigation continue and not jump to judgments, as others have done.”

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David Hogg calls for boycott of Vanguard, Blackrock over gun industry ties

Parkland student activist David Hogg is urging people to boycott two major investment firms — Vanguard Group and Blackrock — over their ties to weapons manufacturers.

“Blackrock and Vanguard Group are two of the biggest investors in gun manufacturers; if you use them, feel free to let them know. Thanks,” Hogg wrote on Twitter this week.

Blackrock and Vanguard Group own large percentages of weaponsmakers, Sturm, Ruger & Co. and American Outdoor Brands.

While the companies did not directly address Hogg’s proposed boycott, Vanguard said it offers customers funds that do not include gun makers. Blackrock said it plans to do so.

Hogg and other students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become outspoken advocates for more regulations on weapons since a mass shooting at their school on Feb. 14 left 17 people dead. The students have lobbied lawmakers to change gun laws through high-profile protests and dozens of town halls with legislators. 

While Republicans in Congress have rejected calls for more federal regulations on guns, the students and other gun control activists have found success lobbying corporate America to distance itself from the National Rifle Association and weapons manufacturers.

Major retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods have stopped selling semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting. Dick’s announced this week that it would have its existing inventory of the guns destroyed rather than sell them back to gunmakers. 

Walmart recently raised the age from 18 to 21 to buy a semi-automatic rifle.

Meanwhile, Bank of America has said it would stop lending money to gun manufacturers that make military-inspired firearms for civilians. Citigroup announced last month that it will require its clients to refrain from selling guns people younger than 21 and to those who have not passed a background check.

In the past, gun control activists have tried to apply pressure to gun manufacturers via their investors  with mixed results. 

In 2013, New York City’s teacher pension fund sold its stocks of publicly traded firearms manufacturers after 27 people were killed in a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. However, many major public pension plans still include investments in gunmakers, including the Florida Retirement System Pension Plans, which includes the state’s teachers.

Hogg, who has more than 700,000 followers on Twitter, recently spearheaded a successful boycott advertiser boycott of Laura Ingraham after the Fox News show host mocked Hogg on social media. Dozens of advertiser pulled out of the show despite Ingraham making a public apology. Fox News said it stands by Ingraham.

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Judge orders release of additional video from Parkland school shooting

A judge has ordered Broward County Public Schools to release additional video taken outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the mass shooting that left 17 people dead.

The order was issued Wednesday after lawyers for several news organizations, including the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald and CNN, successfully argued that the video footage should be made public.

The lawyers for the school board and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had said that the release of the videos could jeopardize the prosecution of gunman Nikolas Cruz and hinder school security.

However, Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Levenson found the videos did not directly relate to the prosecution of Cruz and would not adversely affect school security.

Wednesday’s ruling applies to five of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s nearly 70 cameras. Some of the footage will be redacted. 

The media groups said the video could shed light on the police response to the shooting. Last month, the court ordered video from some of the outside cameras be released.

School Resource Officer Scot Peterson resigned after Sheriff Scott Israel said Peterson failed to engage Cruz during the shooting. Peterson, through his lawyer, said he was unsure where the gunfire was coming from, and that he was “no coward.”

Others have questioned whether Broward County sheriff’s deputies could have entered the school sooner. Records released by the sheriff’s office said law enforcement officers entered the school 11 minutes after the shooting began.

The sheriff’s office released a detailed timeline, drawing from police radio transmissions, that appear to support Israel’s charge that Peterson failed to engage.

The sheriff’s office has until May 2 to appeal the judge’s decision.

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Stoneman Douglas survivor, victim’s family file lawsuits against shooter, late mother’s estate

More than two months following the tragedy at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, legal action is being taken by the victims and their families.

Anthony Borges, a student shot five times on Feb. 14, and his family filed a complaint and demand for a jury trial Tuesday morning.

In the 16-page document obtained by Local 10, the defendants include the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, the estate of Cruz’s late mother Lynda, and James and Kimberly Sneak, the couple who allowed Cruz to stay in their home from November until the day of the shooting.

Borges’ attorney, Alex Arreaza, said the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward County Schools should have done more to protect his client and his classmates.

“You knew he was a problem years ago and you did nothing.  He should’ve never been in school with us,” said Borges.

The Borges family is also taking legal action for negligence against three healthcare facilities that cared for Cruz at certain points in his life.

The family of Helena Ramsay, who died protecting her best friend, is also taking legal action; filing a notice of probate claim.

“I have put the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Broward School Board and the Department of Children and Families on notice,” said Ramsay’s family attorney, Craig Goldenfarb.

The Borges and the Ramsay family also plan to file suit against the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the school district. They have yet to do that because state agencies are entitled six months’ notice before a lawsuit is filed.

Meanwhile, dozens of parents, teachers, survivors and members of the community gathered at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts Tuesday evening for a town hall meeting to gather input on how to distribute funds collected through the Stoneman Douglas victims’ fund.

“They want to feel loved, and that’s all that really matters right now, because there is nothing you can do to take back the moment,” Stoneman Douglas survivor Destiny Cazeau said.  

More than $7.5 million has already been raised and will go to families of victims who died, those physically injured and students and teachers who suffered psychological trauma. But when the question was asked if the committee was considering accepting funds from gunman Nikolas Cruz, it did not go over well with those in attendance.

“We don’t want that money,” one man said. “We don’t need that money. Please don’t take any money from that guy.”


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Broadway, TV actors share stage with Marjory Stoneman Douglas students

A charity performance at the BB&T Center Monday night sounded like a Broadway show.

It looked like one, too. For many people in attendance, however, the performances were so much more than entertainment.

“I was in the freshman building the time of the shooting, and I’ve been having a hard time getting out of the house,” a Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor said. “It means a lot. I feel comfort from them, and hearing their songs, and hearing their emotion in their songs.”

For nearly three hours Monday night, Broadway and television entertainers shared the stage with star students from Stoneman Douglas High School.

For some Broadway actors, like Eitan Benson, who grew up in Coral Springs, the benefit concert was all about the children.

“When I saw what happened in February, I was devastated,” Bensen said. “I wanted so badly to be here to support and I couldn’t, so to be able to be here today means everything to me.”

It was a chance for everyone involved to give back to a community that continues to heal.

The proceeds from the event will benefit victims and survivors of the Valentine’s Day massacre.

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Stoneman Douglas seniors prepare for prom that will honor fallen classmates

Weeks after the worst day of their lives, seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are getting ready for one of the most magical.

Seniors at the school are preparing for the prom, promising it will be over the top.

“Definitely sparkle,” said Stoneman Douglas class president Julia Cordover. “We want to keep it mostly a secret, but we’re excited for the students to find out.”

While a good time is promised, the prom will also honor those seniors who lost their lives when a gunman opened fire on Feb. 14, killing 17.

Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Carmen Schentrup and Meadow Pollack were seniors killed at the school and will be memorialized at the event.

“It’s going to be the first thing they see when they walk in and it will be nice to remember them that way,” said senior class vice-president Lauren Hetzroni.

To make the prom even more special, all dress have been donated, and a professional hair stylist and barbers will be on site with their services offered free of charge.

The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort donated its ballroom and the cost of all food for the Stoneman Douglas prom, a total of about $50,000.

All in an effort to make sure everyone is looking their best on the biggest night of their lives, while not forgetting what they’ve faced this year.

“Because everyone deserves it, so we just hope that everyone will have a new positive memory for their Senior year.”

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