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The South Florida Roundup

Parkland Father, Broward State Senator On Opposing Sides Of Reinstating Scott Israel

Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina in the Parkland school shooting, serves on the statewide public safety commission looking into the 2018 massacre.

The statewide commission investigating the Parkland shooting is working on a second school safety report, which is expected to be submitted to the governor by Nov. 1.

This comes just over a week after the Florida Senate voted – largely along party lines – to permanently remove Scott Israel, Broward County’s former sheriff, from office.


In a rare special session, senators also heard testimony from Parkland parents like Ryan Petty, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina in the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

“The senseless murder of so many tests the limits of faith and demands more endurance than I thought possible,” he said in Tallahassee last Monday. “We didn’t understand the magnitude of the failures by law enforcement.”

On the South Florida Roundup, host Caitie Switalski spoke with Petty about his message to lawmakers and his role on the statewide commission looking into the shooting. They were also joined by Democratic state Sen. Perry Thurston Jr., who represents parts of Broward County. He was one of several Broward Democrats who voted against removing Israel.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

RYAN PETTY: What I wanted the Senate to understand is that this was a systemic failure by multiple agencies. But at that moment we were talking about the leadership, or lack thereof, of Scott Israel. And I wanted the Senate to understand the pain and anguish that the families have felt over the loss of our loved ones and the failures that unfortunately contributed to this tragedy.

This was the most preventable school shooting in history. I'm convinced of that, spending a year and a half now on the commission investigating it. There were multiple failures. Any one of those could have prevented this shooting from happening. And I wanted the Senate to understand that. I wanted them to understand not only the emotion, but the scope and depth of the failures in this case by BSO [Broward Sheriff's Office].

WLRN: How are you feeling about the Senate's conclusion? I think a lot has been said about that this a victory of sorts for the victims families. Is that an accurate representation of what you have been trying to get at?

PETTY: I've struggled to find a word. There's no joy in this. The closest approximation, and it's not an emotion, but it's accountability. We don't want this to happen to any other families across the country, in the state of Florida and certainly in Broward County. Nothing we do will bring our children or our loved ones back.

Sen. Thurston, you were one of the 15 senators who did vote in favor of giving Israel his job back. Can you walk us through your reasoning for your vote?

SEN. PERRY THURSTON JR.: I don't think that there's anybody who does not appreciate and empathize with the parents of Parkland children. No one wants to see anybody have to go through that. So that's what makes it so difficult because you want to try to show the appropriate respect there. But at the same time, we want to address monumental critical issues dealing with the disenfranchisement of 2 million people who reside in Broward County.

Another father of a Parkland victim, Fred Guttenberg, tweeted out about you seemingly sleeping during the debate. While it's not uncommon for lawmakers to doze on the floor, do you have a response to the criticism?

THURSTON JR.: I absolutely was not dozing on the floor. One of the things that we do in the Florida Legislature is our entire proceeding is recorded. We would ask that you look at the entire hearing and look at that portion, which purports to be me dozing. This was a monumental decision. To think that I would not be taking it serious and listening to the entire thing is certainly without merit.

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Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
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.