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A coalition of religious leaders from Broward County stood firm in support of Sheriff Scott Israel at a rally Thursday amid criticism and calls for his resignation in the wake of the Parkland school shooting.
Just before pastor Anthony Burrell held a press conference to share their support, Sheriff Israel was invited to a private meeting at the Word of the Living God Ministries in Pompano Beach.
With cameras and reporters present, Israel managed to come and go from the church undetected and avoiding questions from the media about his agency’s handling of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed 17 lives.
“We’ve come out today to say yes, we support Sheriff Scott Israel,” Burrell said.
There has been mounting pressure from Republican lawmakers for the sheriff to resign. He came under scrutiny after the revelation that deputy Scot Peterson who was on the scene did not go in to confront the gunman during the attack. His office is also facing backlash for apparently mishandling some of the tipster calls related to the suspected shooter.
Over the weekend, Israel told NBC 6 he plans on staying Broward County’s sheriff.
“The men and women who elected me, the men and women on this agency want me to continue leading the Broward County Sheriffs Office. And I will continue to do that for as long as God wants me here,” he said.
On Thursday, the pastor spelled off a list of accomplishments the sheriff helped implement in Broward County and their reason for supporting him.
“We say that today because of the food distribution that takes place every weekend in the tri-county area of which the Broward Sheriffs Office has been at the forefront. We say that because of the civil citation program that has been put into place that young people are not automatically railroaded into the criminal justice system,” Burrell said.
The president of the BSO deputies association said they will remain neutral about their stance on if the sheriff should stay or go because he is an elected official. The president said that will be up to legislators and the governor.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott does have the power to remove Israel but he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to do an independent investigation on the sheriff’s office’s handling of the shooting before he makes any final decision.