A Florida police officer is facing backlash over a Facebook comment in which he seemingly wished violence upon Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and other young gun control activists. The now-deleted post was a response to the "die-in" protests held Friday in the parking lot of supermarket-chain giant Publix, which previously made large donations to the political campaigns of National Rifle Association (NRA) supporters.
"Hope some old lady loses control of her car in that lot. Jus saying…..” Coconut Creek police officer Brian Valenti allegedly wrote on the Coral Springs/Parkland Facebook page, according to screenshots obtained by the Sun-Sentinel.
The comment was posted under a picture of Hogg and two other #NeverAgain activists standing in the parking area of a Coral Springs Publix store, where they had just finished painting body outlines in chalk to represent the 17 people killed in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, located only a few miles away.
The demonstration was enacted in several locations across Florida on Friday. The Coral Springs iteration specifically targeted Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a major NRA supporter who counted Publix as one of his top campaign contributors.
A representative from the Coral Springs Police Department told Newsweek that Valenti would be disciplined, although he did not go into detail. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the police officer has since apologized.
“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,” wrote Police Chief Butch Arenal in an email to the newspaper. “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.”
Rod Skirvin, a police union leader, said that Valenti, who has been with the department for 23 years, would face disciplinary consequences. “He feels terrible and is very willing to apologize in person,” Skirvin told the Sun-Sentinel. “We are going to speak to the chief on Tuesday when he goes back to work. There will be disciplinary repercussions for him.”
Meanwhile, Hogg's campaign seemed successful. Publix has halted donations to political campaigns, a decision that roiled NRA supporters.
"At Publix, we respect the students and members of the community who have chosen to express their voices on these issues," the grocery store said in a statement just prior to last week's demonstration. "We regret that our contributions have led to a divide in our community. We did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate. At the same time, we remain committed to maintaining a welcoming shopping environment for our customers."
The statement continued, "We would never knowingly disappoint our customers or the communities we serve. As a result, we decided earlier this week to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we reevaluate our giving processes."
Valenti is hardly the first official to face backlash for insensitive remarks directed at school shooting survivors. A TV host at a local Missouri station tendered his resignation after launching into a tirade against Hogg on Twitter, telling his followers he was preparing to "ram a hot poker up David Hogg’s ass tomorrow." Another officer in Florida was reassigned after alleging that the student activists were "paid actors." Several candidates for public office quit races or lost elections after making insensitive and offensive remarks about school shootings.
But some who slammed Hogg and fellow activists faced less serious consequences despite public outcry. National Rifle Association board member and former rock 'n' roller Ted Nugent continues to make controversial remarks about the students with seemingly no repercussions. Fox News host Laura Ingraham weathered an advertising boycott after she joked about Hogg not getting into his chosen college, returning to high ratings after a weeklong vacation. Similarly, several conservative lawmakers have come out relatively unscathed after criticizing the students, although most have issued apologies.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Coral Springs Police Department.
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