Gregory Tony ended his career as a cop to start a business teaching people how to protect themselves in a mass shooting and treat bleeding victims. Two years later, one of the scenarios in his curriculum came to pass on his old turf. A troubled 19-year-old named Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an assault rifle and killed 14 students and three staff members last Valentine’s Day. Tony’s former colleagues on the Coral Springs police force responded in textbook fashion and were the first to rush into the school, the Miami Herald reports.
Now Tony returns to a place scarred by a belief that the Parkland massacre could have been averted. He is sheriff of Broward County, the state’s second-largest, responsible for a department with 5,430 employees and a $918 million budget. It is a job no one could have predicted for Tony, 40, who held the rank of sergeant in a suburban department for three years. Those who know him well say he is the ideal man to restore faith in the office and its deputies, whose response to Cruz’s rampage was criticized as chaotic and cowardly in detailed reconstructions. “We need to tell the public there was a failure here, but no complacency in fixing things,” he said, adding his first priority is to revamp training for his deputies. Tony, Broward’s first black sheriff, was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Scott Israel, who was suspended by DeSantis for “a pattern of poor leadership” and “repeated incompetence and neglect of duty” in response to the 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport and last year at the high school.