FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Florida sheriff’s deputy who was fired for his inaction during a school shooting that left 17 dead has been reinstated with back pay by an arbitrator who ruled that the sheriff missed a deadline for dismissing the deputy.
An arbitrator ruled this week that Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony acted 13 days too late when he fired deputy Josh Stambaugh last year for his conduct during the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
State law says discipline against law enforcement officers must occur within 180 days of an investigation’s completion. It is unknown exactly how much Stambaugh will receive in back pay, but he earned more than $150,000 in 2018, including overtime.
It is the second time an arbitrator has reinstated a Broward deputy fired for his conduct during the Parkland shooting. Another arbitrator reinstated Sgt. Brian Miller four months ago, saying Tony had missed that deadline by two days. The sheriff’s office is appealing the Miller decision and says it will do the same with Stambaugh.
"Once again, an arbitrator with no connection or association with Broward County has made a flawed decision to reinstate a deputy who was terminated for his response to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Jeff Bell, president of the Broward patrol deputies union, told the newspaper that firing Miller and Stambaugh after the deadline was "a waste of taxpayer money on cases where the agency knows it violated Florida State Statutes."
An arbitrator is scheduled to hear a similar case involving a third fired deputy, Edward Eason, later this year. Miller made $137,000 in 2018 and Eason made $118,000.
A state investigative commission found that Stambaugh was working an off-duty shift at a nearby school when he responded to reports of shots fired at Stoneman Douglas. He got out of his truck, put on his bulletproof vest and took cover for about five minutes after hearing the shots, according to body camera footage. Stambaugh then drove to a nearby highway instead of going toward the school.
Eason ran the other way as gunfire continued, then spent time putting on his bulletproof vest and body camera while the carnage continued, investigators said.
Eason was also faulted for not writing an official report after receiving a tip in February 2016 that the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was making threats on social media to shoot up a school. Tips to the FBI about Cruz also were not followed up, a separate investigation has found.
Miller was the first supervisor to arrive at the school, arriving in time to hear three or four shots, records show. Investigators found that Miller took his time putting on a bulletproof vest and hid behind his car.
Cruz, 21, is awaiting trial and could get the death penalty if convicted. His attorneys have said he is willing to plead guilty in exchange for life sentence.