COCONUT CREEK — Coconut Creek police K-9 officer Brian Valenti is in hot water after posting an offensive comment on Facebook related to Friday’s “die-in” protest at Publix, saying he hoped “some old lady loses control of her car in that lot.”
Valenti, 45, posted the comment under a photo of David Hogg, the Parkland student and activist who organized the anti-NRA event.
The protest centered on the chain’s donations to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a self-proclaimed “proud #NRASellout.” Minutes before students and sympathizers laid down in protest at various Publix stores, the supermarket chain announced it was suspending future political contributions.
Before the protest, Hogg and other #NeverAgain activists used chalk to draw the outlines of 17 bodies in the parking lot outside a Coral Springs store, a reference to the victims killed in the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14.
A story and photo of the protest appeared on a Coral Springs/Parkland page on Facebook.
Posts started coming in attacking Hogg, including one from Valenti, which read: “Hope some old lady loses control of her car in that lot. Jus saying…..”.
Valenti, who has been with the department 23 years, has taken the post down.
But a woman who spotted and took a screenshot of his comment sent an email Saturday night to Coconut Creek commissioners and Police Chief Butch Arenal urging that the veteran officer be suspended or fired.
“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,” Kim Simonson wrote.
Rod Skirvin, a union leader and recently retired Coconut Creek detective, described Valenti as “distraught” over the incident.
“He feels terrible and is very willing to apologize in person,” Skirvin said. “We are going to speak to the chief on Tuesday when he goes back to work. There will be disciplinary repercussions for him.”
In an email to Simonson, the chief agreed that the officer’s comment was “unprofessional and inappropriate” and said the department contacted the officer immediately after getting her email.
The chief’s email went on to say: “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. 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.”
Simonson, who lives out of state and declined to comment, sent a second email on Sunday saying “a meaningless apology” is not an appropriate punishment.
“The fact that he stated to you that he considers running over children with a car to be a joke, should definitely send off some alarm bells in the heads of the supervisors in your town,” she wrote in Sunday’s email. “That isn’t the type of person I would like representing my community all over Facebook and beyond.”
(c)2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.