Update: In a Friday afternoon press conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis formalized the removal of Scott Israel and appointed Gregory Tony interim sheriff. Read the full statement at the end of this story.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to remove Broward Sheriff Scott Israel from his post today at 3 p.m. during a news conference in front of BSO headquarters.
That much is clear. But there is much speculation about whom DeSantis will install as the top cop. New Times has confirmed a Politico report that the governor is expected to choose former Coral Springs sergeant Gregory Tony as the interim sheriff. Tony would become the first black sheriff in Broward history.
Considering Israel is being removed after his agency’s disastrous response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, there is some poetic justice in the expected choice. Tony, after all, comes from the Coral Springs Police Department, which also responded to the shooting and by all accounts did a far better job than the agency Tony might soon lead.
The 40-year-old Tony is also an expert in what BSO failed so miserably to do that day: respond to an active shooter. Tony was hired by the Coral Springs department in October 2005 and assigned to the SWAT team in 2009 and promoted to sergeant in 2014. He left in September 2016 prior to the shooting to work solely at his company, Blue Spear Solutions, which according to its website is “focused on providing… state of the art training and awareness related to preventative strategies and response for Active Shooter/Mass Casualty incidents.”
He started the company with his wife Holly in 2015 while still employed at CSPD. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Nova Southeastern University, according to his company website, and graduated from Florida State University.
At FSU, Tony, a native of Philadelphia, was a walk-on football player, an undersize fullback (standing 5-11 and weighing 215 pounds) whom then-coach Bobby Bowden “frequently bragged about,” according to a 2002 article on warchant.com, an FSU sports website.
According to the website, Tony packed up his bags in Philadelphia in 1998 age 19 or 20 and set out for Tallahassee. From the article: “Tony traveled to Tallahassee with nothing but a dream of one day wearing the Garnet and Gold. With hardly any money to his name it took a while for him to earn enough to pay his tuition and get into Florida State. When he did, it wasn’t long before he found his way to the practice fields.”
He worked his way into a potential starting position during his senior season in 2002 but then left school for the military, apparently called to action by the September 11 attacks, according to a September 2002 article in the the Tallahassee Democrat: “Tony passed on a chance to start at fullback this season to enter the Marines Officer Candidate School.”
Other references to Tony’s military background were not found and are not included in his listed credentials on the company website. He also apparently had a small run-in with the law while at Florida State: He was charged with misdemeanor fraud for allegedly writing a check with insufficient funds, according to Leon County Clerk of Court records. Those records show prosecutors dropped the charge January 24, 2002.
Tony sold his Broward County home in 2017 according to Broward Property Appraiser records. He now has an address at a rental apartment in Boca Raton and also lists a residence Greenville, South Carolina. One thing is clear: He no longer resides in Broward County.
And then there’s the burning question: What are Tony’s politics? The Broward Supervisor of Elections Office confirmed that Tony was registered as a Democrat and last voted in 2012. His voter registration in Broward County is currently inactive.
DeSantis issued the following statement on Israel’s suspension:
Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership. He failed to protect Floridians and visitors during the tragic Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting in 2017. He failed in his duties to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. These incidents demonstrate Sheriff’s Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty. The families of the victims deserve accountability. It is my job as Governor to ensure that the safety of our local communities, especially the safety of our children, is paramount. Government officials must be held accountable for their actions, and/or inactions. For these reasons, I am suspending Sheriff Israel from office effective immediately.