Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony was arrested for shooting an 18-year-old neighbor when he was 14 years old but he didn’t disclose that information when he was asked on his application for the Coral Springs Police Department in 2005.
The Florida Bulldog, a watchdog publication, reported on Saturday that the sheriff appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to replace ousted former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel had killed a man when he was a teenager living in a bad area of Philadelphia.
News of Sheriff Gregory’s teenage arrest came as a shock to retired Coral Spring Police Chief Duncan Foster, who gave the future Broward sheriff his first law enforcement job, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
“Knowing [what we know] now, I would have not have hired him,” Chief Foster said on Monday. “All things being equal, there are more qualified candidates who did not have involvement with the criminal justice system to the extent that he did.”
The shooting occurred at about 4 p.m. on May 3, 1993 when the 14-year-old future sheriff and his brother got into a disagreement with 18-year-old Hector “Chino” Rodriguez in front of the home where they grew up in the 2800-block of N. Hutchinson Street in Philadelphia, according to the Florida Bulldog.
“Police were uncertain what sparked the killing, but the word on the street was that some light-hearted joking between the two friends had turned ugly,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported at the time.
Norma Rodriguez, Chino’s mother, told the local paper that two crack addicts walked by and her son joked to Tony “there goes your uncles,” the Florida Bulldog reported.
The mother told the Philadelphia Daily News that Tony didn’t like the joke and went inside his house and got a gun.
William Scott, a man identified as Tony’s father in the report, told the paper “his son apparently came in the house and grabbed the [.32-caliber] revolver that Scott kept hidden under his mattress,” the Florida Bulldog reported.
“I saw the two of them together 20 minutes earlier,” Scott said. “They was laughing and talking… Next thing I know, I hear shots and see this kid lying in the street. I recognized who it was and I said, ‘God d–n it! God d–n it!… One hour later, I heard it was my son who did it.’”
According to the police report, Chino suffered “multiple GSW’s [gunshot wounds] to head & body,” the Florida Bulldog reported.
Tony turned himself in the next day, and bail was set at $15,000.
Details of what happened in the hearing behind the juvenile court’s closed doors are sealed, but ultimately, Tony wasn’t prosecuted for his neighbor’s murder, the Florida Bulldog reported.
Afterwards, Tony went on to play football and baseball in high school and then after he graduated, he moved to Florida and played football at Florida State University where he got his degree in criminology in 2002.
He joined the Coral Springs Police Department as an officer in 2005, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
During the application process, Tony answered “no” multiple times when he was asked if he had ever been arrested or charged with a crime, the Miami Herald reported.
He was also asked if he had ever been arrested, received a notice to appear, been charged, convicted, pleaded nolle contendre, or pleaded guilty to any criminal violation and the aspiring officer checked the box marked “no.”
Tony also answered “no” when he was asked if he had ever been arrested, charged, received a notice or summons to appear for any criminal violation as a juvenile, according to the Miami Herald.
Sheriff Tony, now 41, has disputed the media reports of the incident from 27 years ago and maintained that the investigation determined he killed Chino in self defense, the Miami Herald reported.
He said Chino was a drug dealer who carried a gun and said he only shot him after he was threatened.
Sheriff Tony also disputed multiple reports that he had shot the 18-year-old neighbor outside in front of his house, the Miami Herald reported.
“He ran into our home armed with a gun,” the sheriff said. “He was in the home. I shot him in the house and fortunately he didn’t shoot me and my brother.”
He said he didn’t do anything wrong by not disclosing the incident when he applied for the job at Coral Springs PD.
“I just remember at some point this whole thing was cleared. There was no crime,” Sheriff Tony told the Miami Herald. “I don’t regret not disclosing [the shooting] I’ve never been arrested. Under Pennsylvania law, they looked at this thing and found no just cause for any type of crime.”
Chief Foster, who gave Sheriff Tony his first job, was firm in his assertion that he never would have hired him if he had known about his juvenile arrest in Philadelphia, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
But he also said that Tony, who attained the rank of sergeant at Coral Springs PD, never had any performance problems or issues while he was working for him.
The former police chief pointed out that the Internet wasn’t in play for research like it is today when the background check on Tony failed to show his prior arrest, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
The governor, however, said after the revelation about the sheriff’s past that he probably would have appointed Sheriff Tony even if he had known about the teenage shooting, WFOR reported.
“It seems like he was in a very rough neighborhood and he was trying to defend his family. I don’t think it would, because it was self-defense, I don’t think it would have made a difference but it did not come up in the background check because he had never been charged or had ever had anything show up on the record,” DeSantis said. “It’s not like he’s my sheriff, I didn’t even know the guy.”
He said the matter was no in the hands of Broward County residents who would have the opportunity to re-elect Sheriff Tony in November, or not, WFOR reported.
Sheriff Tony is running for sheriff for the first time against 10 other candidates including former Sheriff Israel.