A South Florida police officer has been suspended after writing on Facebook that he hoped “some old lady loses control of her car” where Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg was leading a protest against gun violence last week.
Brian Valenti, a 23-year veteran of the Coconut Creek Police Department, said he made his comment in jest but regretted it, Coconut Creek Police Chief Albert Arenal wrote in a statement posted Tuesday.
Valenti was suspended for five days without pay and must attend sensitivity training. All other city employees will undergo refresher training on their personal use of social media in the near future as well, said Arenal.
“As Chief of Police, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by Officer Valenti’s post,” Arenal said. “I am accountable for the actions of all employees who work the police department. A law enforcement officer is always held to a higher standard, as each one should be.”
The Coconut Creek Police Department was one of several law enforcement groups that responded to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February.
Arenal said he has approved Valenti’s request to personally apologize to the event’s organizers. The chief added that if he believed Valenti’s post was “truly a threat against the safety and well-being of another individual, his employment would be terminated.”
Valenti’s Facebook post came as Hogg and other protesters gathered at a Publix grocery store to stage a “die in” to protest the chain’s donations to a gubernatorial candidate whom the National Rifle Association supports.
“Hope some old lady loses control of her car in that lot. Just saying,” Valenti wrote in a since-deleted post.
Publix, in response to the protests, announced that it would not be contributing to political candidates in the future.