Florida county sheriff defends decision not to disclose that he killed a man in self-defense when he was 14
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement Mondayhe “shot an armed man in self-defense” during his time growing up in a Philadelphia neighborhood “filled with violence and gang activity.”
News of Tony’s involvement in the 1993 shooting came to light when the online news organization Florida Bulldog reported the incident on Saturday after interviewing the family of 18-year-old Hector “Chino” Rodriguez, the man he killed.
“This was the most difficult and painful experience of my life and I have never spoken of it publicly. I worked every day from that time forward to leave the violence that surrounded me in Philadelphia behind,” Tony said in his statement to CNN.
“Surviving this assault inspired me to do work to help others. The world is filled with violent individuals and brave men and women who protect the innocent against their actions. This is the essence of law enforcement and is why I have dedicated my life to service in law enforcement.”
Tony was initially charged as an adult, but his case was transferred to juvenile court, where a judge found him not guilty and sealed his records, the Florida Bulldog reported.
Tony eventually left Philadelphia and moved to Florida to play football at Florida State University, where he graduated with a degree in criminology.
His career in law enforcement began when he joined the Coral Springs Police Department SWAT team in 2005.
Tony did not mention the shooting when he applied to become a law enforcement officer in Coral Springs or when DeSantis appointed him as sheriff, according to the Florida Bulldog.
Tony told the Tampa Bay Times he has no regrets about not disclosing the shooting because he was never arrested.
“Under Pennsylvania law, they looked at this thing and found no just cause for any type of crime,” he added.
After the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system reviewed the incident, it was “concluded there was no crime and cleared (Tony’s) name,” a spokesperson for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office told CNN.
Becoming the Broward County sheriff
DeSantis appointed Tony to replace Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who the governor suspended for failing “in his duties to keep our families and children safe” during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 14 students and three teachers dead.
Tony, who was appointed in January 2019, became the first black sheriff in Broward County’s history.
“It’s not like he’s my sheriff. I didn’t even know the guy. It’s not like he was a political ally of mine,” DeSantis said during a press conference Monday,
“The people I talked to in Broward have been pleased with what he’s doing. That’s ultimately a decision that the people in Broward can make. It’s not going to be anything I’m going to be getting involved in.”
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told CNN before his appointment as sheriff, they completed a level 1 background check on Tony.
The agency included a court query with their request and found no court records in Pennsylvania. The FDLE also conducted a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) check and found no sealed records.
When asked if Tony was obligated to disclose his involvement in the shooting, the spokesperson said they could not answer that question.
The governor said one of the reasons he appointed Tony was because he liked that the sheriff “had come from real tough upbringing” and was a great officer.
Tony is running against Israel in a heated race for the 2020 election of the next Broward sheriff. Both candidates have received no-confidence votes from their deputies.
CNN’s Rosa Flores and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.