Suspended Broward sheriff holds fundraiser at Pembroke Pines sports bar

The suspended Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, attended a private fundraiser to raise money for legal fees and to build support for a potential return to public office.

The ousted lawman, seen walking into a Pembroke Pines sports bar Friday evening in a suit and tie, confirmed he was meeting with supporters and courting donations to help cover the costs associated with appealing his suspension before the Florida Senate and potentially in court.

“[It’s] a function to get the community together. We’re going to be running again and hopefully win our office back,” he said outside Bru’s Room Sports Bar before ducking into a reserved dining room secluded from the restaurant’s general seating. “We’ve done nothing that would ever warrant suspension, and people just want to get together and show support.”

Israel’s attorney has said he would run again in 2020. He was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.

The ousted Democratic sheriff will defend his case before a special magistrate, who will make recommendations to the Republican-controlled Florida Senate. He is also considering a legal challenge.

Friday’s get-together drew a lone protester, who held signs denouncing Israel as a liar and someone deserving of imprisonment.

David Rosenthal, a Hollywood resident, said he supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Israel after BSO’s handling of the Parkland massacre.

The confessed shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had been contacted several times by deputies for unrelated calls to service.

Several deputies responding to the shooting failed to confront Cruz, and some took cover behind their vehicles as victims died. The lone deputy on scene during the shooting took cover while the gunman shot 34 people, killing 17. Three deputies who failed to confront the shooter were placed on restrictive duty, and two others — including the school resource officer — have since resigned.

At the time of the shooting, BSO’s active-shooter policy stated responding deputies “may” confront the assailant, a change approved by Israel.

Following criticism, Israel changed the phrasing to stipulate deputies “shall” confront the threat. Israel also implemented other policy changes after the shooting, including mandated annual active-shooter training and a planned unit dedicated to threat assessments.

“I knew Scott would be coming here to raise funds for his campaign, and I just wanted to make sure that everyone coming into Bru’s Room would be able to read my signs and understand that there’s a segment of the community that believes that Scott Israel is a criminal,” he said.

Israel is not facing criminal charges, but has been accused of incompetence and misfeasance by DeSantis.

Following his suspension, which Israel criticized as a political hit job, the former sheriff created a legal defense fund to raise money for his legal battle.