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The grief and mourning continue for the 17 students and staff killed on the afternoon of Feb. 14 during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. But something else is happening among the anguish of the interrupted lives of the victims and survivors. Out of the agony, activism has emerged and students from across South Florida are speaking out together asking for stricter gun controls. Here's a list of grief counseling resources available for the community.

Florida Senate Upholds Scott Israel's Removal From The Broward Sheriff's Office

Scott Israel
Peter Haden
Scott Israel, center, was removed from his elected position as Broward County Sheriff in January 2019 following criticism of how he responded to the Parkland school shooting in 2018.

Florida senators have voted: Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel will not be reinstated. 

The Senate voted 25-15 Wednesday evening to uphold Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision to remove Israel  from his elected office. The final vote came two days after the Senate Rules Committee voted to recommend to the entire Senate that Israel not be reinstated. 

"Senators, by your vote the [Rules Committee] report is adopted and Scott Israel is hereby removed from the position of sheriff of Broward County," Senate President Bill Galvano announced.

DeSantis  suspended Israel in January with an executive order and appointed former Coral Springs Police Sgt. Gregory Tony as sheriff until the 2020 election. 

Read More: Florida Senate Committee Recommends Upholding Scott Israel's Suspension

Senators voted largely along party lines; all but one  Republican voted to uphold the governor's executive order for removal and all but two Democrats voted to reinstate Israel. 

Family members of the Parkland school shooting victims have been advocating for Israel's ouster since shortly after the tragedy occured on Feb. 14, 2018. Many of the victims' families travelled to Tallahassee for the rare Senate-only special session to plead with lawmakers not to reinstate Israel. 

"The man wasn't honest... he failed before, during and after Feb. 14," Fred Guttenberg said of Israel during testimony on Monday. His daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

"You would have thought after Feb. 14 he would have fixed something, but he didn't," Guttenberg said.

Israel released a statement via email immediatly following the Senate's vote. It read in part: "I am disappointed but not surprised that this governor and his political allies chose to ignore their own report and the will of the voters."

Some Broward residents, during public comment in front of the Rules Committee on Monday, said they were concerned that their vote for Israel was being taken away.

"I ask that you respect the voters of Broward County's outcome of 2016 ," Davie resident Karen Fortman said. 

Prior to the rare Senate-only special session, Israel had filed candidacy paperwork to run for election again in 2020. He was elected first in 2012 and reelected in 2016.  Interim Sheriff Tony has said he also plans to run next year, as a Democrat.

A special master, or special investigator's report to the Senate last month, found that Gov. DeSantis had not met the burden of proof that failures in law enforcement response during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School could be traced back to Israel's responsibility. 

"There were lots of indivisual failures," Special Master Dudley Goodlette told the Rules Committee on Monday, during more than 10 hours of presentations and testimony. 

By voting to adopt the Rules Committee's recommendation, senators did not accept the findings from the special master's report. 

Sen. Kevin Rader represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, including the city of Parkland. He was in the minority of senators who said they could not support removing Israel from his elected post. Rader joined all the other senators from Broward County -- all of them Democrats -- with that stance.

Rader, like other Democrats, was concerned about the precedent for other Florida sheriffs in the future. 

"Unfortunately, today we are tasked with deciding between how we feel and the dangerous precedent that we leave behind… I have heard from many Parkland families, as I've tried to be as respectful as possible to everyone who has dealt with this tragedy,” Rader said. “I believe the sheriff should have taken much more responsibility for the failures of the department. But to be clear, we are not tasked with that today… The failures of the office need to go to the voters."

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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