Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel acknowledged Sunday he had heard about one of his deputies failing to enter Stoneman Douglas High School to engage the school shooter there on the same day he attacked the National Rifle Association at a town hall for not supporting stronger gun control laws.
CNN host Jake Tapper hosted that town hall Wednesday night, which featured questions from students, teachers and families connected to the school in Parkland, Florida. The questioning was stridently in favor of gun control, with Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch jeered throughout the evening.
Among those voices in favor of "sensible gun control laws" was Israel, who addressed the crowd and told them he was an "honest sheriff" and that the younger generation would "get it done." He also said the NRA wasn't truly standing up for people until it called for less weapons.
The next day, however, he revealed that armed school resource officer Scot Peterson had failed to enter the school and engage the shooter as the killing was happening, leading to Peterson's suspension and retirement.
Since then, more details have emerged about the Broward County Sheriff's department lack of response to multiple tips that perpetrator Nikolas Cruz was dangerous and a potential school shooter.
"When did you find out that Deputy Peterson had not gone into the building? How soon after the shooting did you know that?" Tapper asked Israel on "State Of The Union."
"Not for days," Israel said.
"How many days?" Tapper asked.
"I'm not sure," Israel said.
Tapper noted Israel had spent much of the town hall "attacking the NRA, saying that police need more powers," and that he didn't disclose any of the information about his deputy's dereliction of duty to the Stoneman Douglas community.
"Did you know it then? Did you know it Wednesday night?" Tapper asked.
"It was spoken about earlier during that day," Israel said. "I'm not on a timeline for TV or any news show. We need to get it right. We need to get it accurate. We're talking about people's lives."
Israel said he looked at the tape on Thursday, the day after the town hall, to verify what he had heard about Peterson's inaction. That day while announcing Peterson's suspension and retirement, he said Peterson's conduct made him sick to his stomach.
"One week after the shooting, you hadn't looked at the video yet?" Tapper asked.
"I looked at the video as soon as our investigators—it wasn't my job to look at the video. It was investigators' job to look at the video," Israel said. "I'm still sheriffing this county."
Israel said once his investigators had finished dissecting the footage, he watched it and alerted the victims' families of Peterson's inaction.
"I couldn't disclose it [at the town hall] because there was no corroboration," he said.
"But your tone at the public forum was rather belligerent towards the NRA, and you were talking about needing more police funding and more police powers and yet you knew—" Tapper said.
"Jake, that's not true at all," Israel said. "I wasn't belligerent towards the NRA. I took a passionate stance as I always have about common-sense gun reform and expanding police ability throughout our country when we come in contact with someone mentally ill, to take them to a facility to take guns away from them. There was no belligerence at all, and I completely disagree with you."
Israel did attack the NRA during the town hall, at one point telling Loesch she wasn't standing up for the students of America.
"I understand your standing up [for] the NRA and I understand that's what you're supposed to do," he said to her. "But, you just told this group of people that you are standing up for them. You're not standing up for them, until you say, ‘I want less weapons.'"
"The men and women I've worked with for almost 40 years, we know how to keep America safe," he added.
At one point, Loesch directly pressed him about failures of law enforcement to respond to multiple tips that the perpetrator was dangerous.
"We are following up on it," Israel said on Wednesday. "We will decide and discern what deputies did, what investigators did and we will—I will handle it accordingly and people will be punished if they didn't do what they were supposed to do."