“I am grateful for the level of support and confidence that they had in me long before an endorsement took place,” Tony said Tuesday during a Zoom conference announcing the endorsement.
The organization has pushed for change following the 2018 attack, including gun reforms. While the group explained its support for Tony on Thursday’s call, Montalto also trashed former Sheriff Scott Israel, who is running for his old job.
Israel led the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) during the 2018 shooting and was removed from that position due, in part, to the agency’s handling of the response.
“Sheriff Tony is a proven leader who immediately enacted positive changes to protect all of Broward’s citizens when he took control of the Sheriff’s Office in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy,” Montalto said Thursday.
“His predecessor disgraced himself in that same office. We are compelled to remind voters that because of Mr. Israel’s incompetent leadership, the Sheriff’s Office failed our community — and indeed our families — when we needed them most. Yet that neglectful leader has the audacity to ask voters for a second chance.
“Let’s be clear, the 14 children and three teachers killed at school that day don’t get the benefit of a second chance to come back to us.”
School Resource Officer Scot Peterson failed to enter the school to confront the shooter on the day of the attack. Peterson was a BSO deputy.
Israel defended his leadership, arguing deputies were properly trained and that failures by Peterson and other deputies to enter the school were not reflective of their training. Gov. Ron DeSantis and a majority in the Florida Senate disagreed.
Now, Israel is seeking to oust Tony after DeSantis named him to replace Israel. The two are part of a six-person Democratic field. In total, 11 candidates are running for the position in 2020, though the Democratic nominee will be favored in the left-leaning county.
Gena Hoyer — who lost her 15-year old son, Luke, in the attack — also vouched for Tony during Thursday’s call.
“Sheriff Tony is always open to the community that he serves,” Hoyer said. “He’s there for the community all the time and puts us first. Under Sheriff Tony’s leadership, the Sheriff’s Office has worked really hard to gain the trust back [from] the community.”
Added Montalto, “Gregory Tony is the tough, resilient and innovative Sheriff that this county needs in these turbulent times.”
Tony faced his own controversy this cycle. He defended his decision not to report his involvement in a fatal shooting in 1993 prior to joining BSO. Tony was cleared in juvenile court after shooting and killing 18-year-old Hector Rodriguez when Tony was just 14 years old. Because Tony was vindicated, that record was sealed.
Tony is also facing an investigation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) surrounding the 1993 shooting. Tony had previously signed a document stating he had never had a criminal record sealed or expunged.
Still, he’s been a top fundraiser in the contest and touted Parkland families’ continued support since he took over the Broward Sheriff’s role in early 2019.
“Here we are 19 months later and these families, these organizations are still behind me,” Tony said.
“That message could have changed over 19 months have I failed to focus on the responsibility to safeguard this community.”