Coconut Creek, FL – A veteran Coconut Creek police officer was suspended without pay on Tuesday, after he made a negative comment on social media regarding Parkland student David Hogg.
Hogg, 18, had organized several Friday “die-in” demonstrations at area Publix grocery stores, to protest the supermarket chain’s support for a gubernatorial candidate who has received contributions from the National Rifle Association, CBS News reported.
Hogg’s fellow protesters laid down throughout the stores, forcing shoppers to step over their bodies in order to move about the businesses, according to USA Today.
Outside the Coral Springs Publix, Hogg and other demonstrators drew 17 outlines of human bodies in chalk, to represent those killed in the Parkland Stoneman Douglas High School massacre on Feb. 14.
Photos came out from the “die-in” of a savage showing up in a Warrior 12 “I’ll Control My Guns” shirt:
Information related to the demonstration was posted on a Coral Springs/Parkland Facebook page, and included a photo of Hogg, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Coconut Creek K9 Officer Brian Valenti was one of many commenters who lashed out in response to news of the protest.
“Hope some old lady loses control of her car in that lot. Jus saying….” Officer Valenti wrote.
Officer Valenti, a 23-year veteran of the department, later deleted his comment, but not before Kim Simonson took a screenshot, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Simonson, who does not live in Florida, then sent the image to Coconut Police Chief Butch Arenal.
“Whether someone agrees with these students or not, it is in very poor taste for a police officer to make the following comment regarding students that have just been through a tragic shooting,” Simonson told Chief Arenal in an email.
She also urged the chief to fire or suspend the veteran officer.
In response, Chief Arenal told Simonson that he agreed that the comment was both “unprofessional and inappropriate.”
He said he contacted Officer Valenti immediately.
“The officer admitted that it was in poor taste, and indicated that it was meant as a joke, but certainly didn’t come off that way,” the chief’s email continued. “It is for that reason that he thought it better to remove the post. He will be offering an apology, as he has indicated that he wants to do whatever he has to do to make it right.”
Police union leader Rod Skirvin aid that Officer Valenti was “distraught” over the problems he had caused.
On Tuesday, Officer Valenti met with Chief Arenal, and said he regretted having made the post. He explained that he made the comment in jest, but that he had since realized that it was not a joking matter.
Officer Valenti said he also hoped to have the opportunity to apologize to Hogg in person.
“After careful consideration of the adverse impact Officer Valenti’s Facebook post may have had on any of the individuals involved, his deep regret for making the comment, and the damage inflicted upon the Coconut Creek Police Department’s reputation, I have decided to suspend Officer Valenti for a period of five days without pay,” Chief Arenal announced after the meeting.
Officer Valenti will also be required to complete sensitivity training, he said.
Hogg was aware of the officer’s comment and responded to it on Tuesday.
“Cops are meant to protect and serve communities, not spread hate and violence among them,” he said.
He also suggested that Officer Valenti should issue a video on Twitter, apologizing for his comment.