After being confronted by CNN's Jake Tapper about his department's refusal to act after receiving a tip about Nikolas Cruz being a potential "school shooter in the making," Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel insisted that he provided "amazing leadership" to the department after blaming the lapse on an underling.
Israel, who has been a frequent presence on cable news - including during CNN's gun-control town hall last week - since 19-year-old Cruz shot and killed 16 of his teenage classmates and a gym teacher during a Valentine's Day rampage, refused to take responsibility for failing to stop Cruz - eliciting an incredulous response from Tapper.
About halfway through the interview, Tapper asked Israel if he would take responsibility for the "multiple red flags" that his department missed ahead of the shooting. Notably, the FBI also failed to "follow protocol" when it received multiple tips about Cruz last year and earlier this year.
Israel insisted that he could only take responsibility for what he knew.
"Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward Sheriff's Office about this shooter before the incident?" Tapper asked.
"Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I've given amazing leadership to this agency—" Israel started.
"Amazing leadership? Tapper asked incredulously.
"Yes, Jake. There's a lot of things we've done throughout this - this is - you don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into these deputies received the training they needed - " Israel said.
"Maybe you measure somebody's leadership by whether or not they protect the community," Tapper said. In this case, you've listed 23 incidents before the shooting involving the shooter and still nothing was done to keep guns out of his hands, to make sure that the school was protected, to make sure you were keeping an eye on him … I don't understand how you can sit there and claim amazing leadership."
Israel said on "16 of those cases," his deputies did everything right and in the five years he had been sheriff, he'd taken the department to a "new level."
Perhaps even more galling, Israel insisted that the shooting happened because "one person didn't do what they should've done," which glosses over the many failures, from background checks failing to prevent Cruz from buying his gun, to law enforcement failing to investigate tips and even letting Cruz off the hook and sheriff's deputies refusing to enter schools, all of which could've stopped Cruz.
"One person didn't do what he should have done," Israel said. "It's horrific. The victims here, the families, I pray for them every night. It makes me sick to my stomach that we had a deputy that didn't go in because I know if I was there, if I was on the wall, I would have been the first in along with so many other people."
Notably, Broward County isn't the only sheriff's office that failed to stop Cruz. As we highlighted this week, deputies from Palm Beach County decided to let Cruz off the hook after family friend Rocxanne Deschamps called the police to report Cruz for threatening to shoot her. Deputies were called to Cruz's home 39 times over a seven-year period before Cruz's adoptive mother died of pneumonia in November.