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US Sheriff Vows Full Investigation of Response to Mass Killing


FILE - Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks before the start of a CNN town hall meeting in Sunrise, Florida, Feb. 21, 2018.

The sheriff in the Florida county where a troubled 19-year-old man carried out a horrific mass shooting rampage vowed Sunday to investigate every aspect of his department's response to the mayhem as it unfolded and the numerous missed signals about the gunman's volatility it had received in the weeks before.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told CNN, "We will investigate every action of our deputies." But he heaped scorn on one of them, Scot Peterson, the veteran lawman who stayed outside the Parkland, Fla., high school two weeks ago rather than charging inside to confront the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, as he allegedly gunned down 14 students and three adults.

FILE - This Feb. 18, 2015 image taken from video provided by Broward County Public Schools shows school resource officer Scot Peterson during a school board meeting of Broward County, Fla.
FILE - This Feb. 18, 2015 image taken from video provided by Broward County Public Schools shows school resource officer Scot Peterson during a school board meeting of Broward County, Fla.

"It makes me sick to my stomach that he didn't go in," Israel said of Peterson, calling his actions "dereliction of duty." Israel said that when he saw the video of Peterson outside the school during the shooting, he suspended him without pay last week. Peterson has resigned.

Israel said Broward internal investigators are looking at reports that at least three other deputies also arrived on the scene without entering the school while the attack was unfolding near the end of the school day on Feb. 14. In addition, he said investigators are reviewing 18 calls to the Broward sheriff's office about Cruz in the weeks before the shooting, in which callers said they believed he was amassing an arsenal and was a threat to carry out an attack on a school.

"One deputy was remiss. Everything else is fluid," Israel said. "We understand everything wasn't done perfectly."

One Florida lawmaker called for Israel's resignation, but the sheriff said he would not quit. Israel said he has given "amazing leadership" to his agency.

The U.S. debate over the proper response to try to thwart future school shootings is intensifying, but whether the killings will move Congress to act is open to question. In a country where the U.S. Constitution enshrines gun ownership, lawmakers have been loathe to impose tougher gun controls, even in the face of previous mass shootings in recent years.

President Donald Trump has suggested arming some gun-adept teachers and paying them a bonus to keep a concealed weapon at the ready to confront a shooter.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with state and local officials to discuss school safety, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Feb. 22, 2018, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with state and local officials to discuss school safety, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Feb. 22, 2018, in Washington.

A small number of local school districts in the U.S. have already instituted such a system of classroom protection, but numerous national educators are opposed to the idea. Trump also has said he favors increasing the legal age for all gun purchases from 18 to 21, an idea adamantly opposed by the country's powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.

Trump said he would leave it up to individual states to decide whether to arm teachers. But Rick Scott, the governor of Florida where the shooting occurred and a supporter of Trump, said he opposes the idea.

"I disagree with arming teachers. My focus is on bringing in law enforcement," Scott said. "Let law enforcement keep us safe, and let teachers focus on teaching."

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch told ABC News, "If parents and teachers voluntarily choose to be armed, I think that's something schools will have to come up with and determine for themselves."

CNN said its latest national poll shows growing support for more expansive gun controls, with 70 percent favoring new restrictions, compared to 52 percent in an October poll not long after a mass shooting in Las Vegas killed 58 people.

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