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Father of daughter murdered at Parkland speaks out on protecting kids

Updated May 12, 2019 - 9:26 am

WASHINGTON — “The media and national Democratic politicians didn’t care about the families or why it happened. To them, my daughter’s murder was just an opportunity to promote their gun control agenda,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was one of 17 victims in last year’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, at the Republican Jewish Coalition last month.

The Florida father became the conservative voice for the prevention of school shootings unexpectedly. After the carnage, President Donald Trump invited families of victims, educators, student leaders and pastors to the White House to discuss the phenomenon with an eye toward practical solutions. At the event, Pollack stood up, his sons by his side, and proclaimed, “We as a country failed our children.”

“We protect airports. We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies, the Department of Education that I walked in today that has a security guard in the elevator. How do you think that makes me feel? In the elevator, they got a security guard,” Pollack continued.

“I’m very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening — 9/11 happened once, and they fixed everything. How many schools, how many children, have to get shot?”

He says he can’t live in Broward County, Florida, any more. Pollack sold his Coral Springs home and bought an RV in which he and his wife, Julie Phillips Pollack, an emergency room physician, have traveled across the country. Over a week, as the two traveled through Arizona and California, Pollack offered he is “cleansing my soul a little bit.”

Gun control is not high on his list.

Pollack considered the April 27 shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, and declared, “It’s fortunate they had people who did what righteous people would do and that’s, step up and stop the guy.”

One woman died. It could have been much worse, but a worshipper accosted the alleged shooter, whose AR-15-style weapon apparently jammed. An off-duty Border Patrol agent shot into his car as the alleged shooter fled the scene.

“They avoided mass casualties by having someone there who was gonna shoot back,” Pollack added in his spirited New York accent.

Rather than embrace gun control, Pollack developed an eight-point plan for school safety that included placing armed guards inside every school.

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, voiced her sympathy for Pollack. “First of all, my deepest sympathies are with him and his family. No one should ever go through the horrific loss of a child,” she said. “My first instinct as a parent myself is to feel his pain.”

Soifer then argued that the better way to stop school shootings “is to enact stronger background checks,” such as a measure that just passed in the House, and “outlaw semi-automatic weapons.”

Pollack, 53, says that he never voted until 2016; he had been outraged at the nuclear agreement which then-President Barack Obama brokered with Iran. He began researching the opposition to Obama, and only then did he decide to vote for Trump.

Since then, he’s also been to the White House for a Hanukkah celebration and talked to Trump at rallies, including before the president’s remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas.

“We strongly oppose politicizing issues such as support of Israel,” Soifer said. She also objected to the coalition’s focus on anti-Semitism on the left.

“The reason I asked Andy to speak,” coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks said, is that he “tells a very compelling story, really about what’s at stake in the upcoming elections.”

And fellow Floridian Scott Newmark, president of Americans for Trump, said of Pollack: “He didn’t hold back. That’s what I love about him.”

Pollack often tells reporters that he assigns about half the blame for his daughter’s death on the then-19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, whose name he refuses to mention.

The other half of the blame he assigns to “Obama-era federal leniency policies” and incompetent Broward County officials, invariably Democrats.

Pollack singles out former Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson, the only armed official on campus who failed to run into a school building to defend unarmed students, and Andrew Medina, a campus monitor who recognized Cruz as the “crazy boy” but didn’t alert authorities after Cruz entered the high school from which he had been expelled. Medina has sought a restraining order against Pollack.

“I don’t stalk,” Pollack told the Review-Journal. “If I want to break the guy’s legs, I’d break his legs.”

Also on Pollack’s long list is the Broward County sheriff because no one arrested Cruz even though his mother, who died in November 2017, called the sheriff’s office more than 40 times — 18 times reportedly because of her out-of-control son. If Cruz had been convicted for some of the offenses that spurred her calls, he would not have been able to purchase the AR-15 he allegedly bought legally after he turned 18. (After the shooting, Florida raised the age for most legal firearms purchases to 21, which Pollack did support.)

Pollack faults Broward Superintendent Robert Runci for introducing federal leniency policies, which discourage criminal prosecutions when students break the law, in Broward schools.

Pollack is suing several officials and entities. When asked to list his lawsuits, Pollack responded that he is concentrating on three cases, those against Peterson, Medina and Henderson Behavioral Health Inc. Pollack’s attorney, David Brill, has argued that counselors at Henderson should have understood the defendant was a “ticking time bomb” and not encouraged him to play violent video games.

Since we spoke, a Broward County circuit judge dismissed Pollack’s lawsuit against Henderson Behavioral Health, which had not seen Cruz for more than a year.

“Rather than deal with the failures that allowed my daughter’s death, they cover for each other, they hide the truth and they spin the narrative,” Pollack said of Broward County officials — or as he calls them, “unethical Democrats” — who failed to treat the shooter as the threat to public safety he was.

Meadow, Pollack notes, was named after the daughter in “The Sopranos.” He says he hasn’t smiled once since his daughter was murdered.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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