Fort Lauderdale, FL – A Florida Circuit Court judge has determined two Broward sheriff’s deputies who were previously reinstated after being fired in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre will be allowed to keep their jobs.
Both had previously been fired for their actions and inactions at the time of the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting that left 17 dead and 17 more wounded.
Broward Circuit Judge Keathan Frink ruled Thursday that arbitrators were correct when they concluded last year that Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Miller and Deputy Josh Stambaugh should be reinstated with back benefits and backpay, the Associated Press reported.
According to Florida law, agencies have 180 days from the completion of an investigation to hand down discipline against law enforcement officers.
In September of 2020, an arbitrator ruled Deputy Stambaugh’s firing in 2019 occurred 13 days after the 180-day deadline, the Associated Press reported.
A second arbitrator reinstated Deputy Miller in May of 2020 after noting he had been fired two days after the 180-day window expired.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) appealed both cases, thereby leaving the decision up to Frink, the Associated Press reported.
Deputy Edward Eason was also fired, but an arbitrator has not yet ruled on his case.
“It is painful for me to once again see that there is no accountability,” Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff said of the judge’s final decision, according to the Associated Press.
Alhadeff’s daughter was among the children who were murdered in the attack.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association (BSODA) released a statement Thursday calling the outcome of the cases a success.
“Judge Fink’s decision today solidifies that Sgt. Miller and Deputy Stambaugh were terminated improperly,” BSODA President Jeff Bell said. “Deadlines are set for specific reasons and the Sheriff’s Office must adhere to those same guidelines as we demand from the citizens of Broward County.”
According to the findings of a state investigative commission, Deputy Stambaugh, a 24-year veteran of the agency, responded to the report of shots fired from an off-duty job at another school nearby, the Sun Sentinel reported in 2019.
Deputy Stambaugh’s bodycam footage revealed that he arrived on the scene while the shooter was still active, and that he was able to hear multiple gunshots as he dressed in his ballistic vest.
It also showed that he took cover behind his vehicle for about five minutes and did not go after the shooter, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Then the deputy got back in his police vehicle and drove up to a highway that overlooked the school’s campus and took up a position there.
“I could see the whole side of the school and I had binoculars,” Deputy Stambaugh said in a sworn statement. “So, if he was anywhere in that school, on the stairwells, I could, you know, get vision of it and I can advise on the radio.”
Similarly, investigators determined Deputy Miller stayed behind his car in the school parking lot as the students were murdered inside the 1200 Building only one-hundred yards away instead of rushing in to stop the gunman, in violation of department policy.
Investigators said Deputy Eason ran away from the gunfire, then spent time putting on his ballistic vest and adjusting a bodycam while the massacre unfolded inside the school, the Associated Press reported.
Deputy Eason also allegedly received a tip in February of 2016 that the gunman was making online posts threatening to shoot up a school, but failed to write an official report on the allegations, according to the Associated Press.