K-9 officer will face disciplinary action for hateful comment about David Hogg's 'die-in' protest
Valenti has been in the department for 23 years and, according to retired Coconut Creek detective Rod Skirvin, he is "distraught" about the incident
A police officer in Florida had been slammed after he posted an offensive comment on Facebook and that too on a photo of David Hogg, survivor of the Parkland shooting. Hogg had organised an anti-NRA "die-in" protest on May 25 at several outlets of the Publix xhain of supermarkets.
45-year-old Brian Valenti, who is a K-9 officer for the Coconut Creek Police Department, commented on one of Hogg's pictures: 'Hope some old lady loses control of her car in that lot. Jus saying...'.
Valenti posted the comment under an image of Hogg and two other activists who were all standing in the parking lot of a Publix store in Coral Springs. They had painted the outlines of the 17 people, who were killed in the Parkland shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, using chalk.
Several of Publix's stores had students laying down on the ground in what was a "die-in" protest against the supermarket's support for Adam Putnam, a gubernatorial candidate who is close to the NRA.
The comment has since been deleted by Valenti but one woman, Kim Simonson, was able to take an image of the post and sent it to Coconut Creek commissioner and Police Chief Albert Arenal asking that disciplinary action be taken against the veteran K-9 officer.
She wrote: "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."
According to a report by the Sun Sentinel, the chief responded to Simonson's email and agreed with her that the comment was "unprofessional and inappropriate" and that the officer "will be offering an apology, as he has indicated that he wants to do whatever he has to do to make it right."
Valenti has been in the department for 23 years and, according to retired Coconut Creek detective, Rod Skirvin, he is "distraught" about the incident. The police chief also said that Valenti had told him that even though the comment was in poor taste, it was meant to be a joke.
Chief Arenal said that a course of action in terms of disciplinary action will be taken on May 29. He told the Sun Sentinel: "We’ll look into it more fully on Tuesday."
The students taking part in the protest shouted "USA, not NRA!" causing brief moments of delay at the checkout counters. Customers had to move around them to get to the products in the store.
There were pro-NRA counter-protestors at one of the stores and two of the men almost ended up in a fist fight before the police arrived and put a stop to it.
Publix released a statement in response to the protest and they have announced the suspension of all the political contributions.
"A lot of people don't support who Publix is supporting," said Haylee Shepherd, a 15-year-old sophomore at Stoneman Douglas, who joined 13 fellow protesters on the floor for about 10 minutes at one of the stores. "It's going to reflect on them as a brand."
The company has been slammed by the student protestors for supporting Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a Republican who proudly calls himself an "NRA sellout". Publix had announced earlier in the week that it was going to "reevaluate" it's donations.
Company spokesperson Maria Brous said that the chain of supermarkets was going to stop its contributions for the moment while it continues it's reevaluation.
High school senior David Hogg is one of the most vocal of all the student activists about gun reform and he is also one of the founders of March for Our Lives. He helped organise the protest.
The "die-in" came one week after the shooting at a school in Santa Fe that took the lives of 10 people including students. This was the same day that the police made an announcement that a student in Indiana opened fire inside his classroom and ended up wounding one classmate and a teacher.
The student protestors at Publix all lay on the ground for 12 minutes which represented the number of mass shootings that have taken place in the country since the Pulse Nightclub incident in June 2016.
All of them held sunflowers to represent the flowers that Joaquin Oliver, a victim of the Parkland shooting, had bought at Publix on Valentine's Day, mere hours before he was gunned down in his school.