On Sunday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel stated that his department had done nothing wrong in failing to stop the Parkland mass shooter from obtaining or using weapons. He explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper that some 45 calls to the police regarding the shooter were insufficient grounds for the police to stop him: “That’s not enough. And that’s what we’re trying to change.”
But is that true?
In recent days, it appears that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office simply blew it. According to the Miami Herald, “His troubling behavior gave law enforcement plenty of opportunities to investigate and arrest him — and even take away his guns — long before he shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last week, according to interviews with former South Florida prosecutors and legal experts.”
While the Sheriff’s Office says that the warnings it was given didn’t make the shooter “arrestable,” that’s not the standard, according to former prosecutor John Priovolos. The question is “whether law enforcement had an obligation to investigate a violation of the law. … [the shooter] could have been arrested – maybe he would have been diverted to a mental-health court, but he would have been under some sort of supervision.”
And if he wasn’t arrested, he should have been monitored.
As the Herald reports, similar incidents have ended with arrests:
On Friday, Miami-Dade Schools police arrested Krop High senior Sean Mesa for posting photos of himself with guns on social media. Improper display of a firearm is a misdemeanor in Florida. …[Two years ago] Miami-Dade Police’s Homeland Security Bureau … arrested Enrique Dominguez, who was posting disturbing images of himself dressed like the Joker, posing with combat-style knives.
The Parkland shooter also threatened a teenager — which could have been prosecuted as cyberstalking, which would have removed his weapons from him under law. And under federal law, he could have been charged with a threat of terrorism after his YouTube post about becoming a “professional school shooter.”
Now, there are holes in Florida’s law — right now, to be arrested for a threat, you have to name a “specific victim or member of that person’s family.” The law should be changed to strike that language. But given the number of times the authorities were alerted to the shooter’s danger, it’s supremely unlikely that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office didn’t simply botch this situation dramatically.