K-9 officer Brian Valenti, 45, posted an offensive Facebook comment on a photo of Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg
A Florida police officer has come under fire for posting an offensive comment on Facebook in response to a photo of Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg who organized Friday’s ‘die in’ protest at two Publix supermarkets.
Brian Valenti, 45, is a K-9 officer with Coconut Creek who commented: ‘Hope some old lady loses control of her car in that lot. Jus saying…’ under a photo of David Hogg, who organized the anti-NRA event.
Students were laying down in ‘die ins’ at two of the supermarket chains Friday to protest Publix’s support for gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam who aligned with the National Rifle Association.
Valenti has since deleted his comment but not before a woman, Kim Simonson, took a photo of the disturbing post and emailed the Coconut Creek commissioner and Police Chief Albert Arenal urging disciplinary action against the veteran officer.
David Hogg says that there are plenty of candidates who are not backed by the NRA to donate money to
‘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.
The Sun Sentinel reports that in an email to Simonson, the chief agreed that the officer’s comment was ‘unprofessional and inappropriate’ and that Valenti ‘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 with the department for 23 years and is ‘distraught’ over the incident, according to Rod Skirvin, a retired Coconut Creek detective.
The police chief said Valenti told him the comment was in poor taste but meant to be a joke which did not translate well.
Chief Arenal has not said what course of action will be taken to discipline Valenti. Instead, he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel: ‘We’ll look into it more fully on Tuesday,’ when they reopen after Memorial Day.
The students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shouted ‘USA, not NRA!’ and caused brief delays at the checkout as customers navigated carts around them on the floor.
Pro-NRA counter-protesters also showed up at one store, and two men almost came to blows before police intervened.
In response to the ‘die in’ the company announced a suspension of political contributions.
Shoppers went around the ‘die in’ in the produce section of the Publix supermarket in Coral Springs, FL.
Protesters spent 12 minutes lying on the ground. One minute for every mass shooting since the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016
Many protesters held sunflowers, the flowers that Parkland shooting victim Joaquin Oliver bought for his girlfriend the morning he was killed
‘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 and people shopping there.’
Publix has been criticized by the students for supporting Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a Republican who has called himself a ‘proud NRA sellout.’ The activists have called for a boycott of the supermarket.
Publix announced earlier this week that it would ‘reevaluate’ its donations amid the outcry.
In another statement Friday, company spokeswoman Maria Brous said the chain would halt its contributions for now as it continues that reevaluation.
David Hogg, who has become an outspoken activist since the shooting at his high school led the chant ‘USA, Not NRA’
Publix, a chain across Florida, announced Friday that they will suspend political donations effective immediately
Senior David Hogg, one of the most vocal student activists for gun reform and one of the founders of March for Our Lives, helped organize the protest.
It came a week after 10 were killed at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, and the same day that authorities said an Indiana middle school student opened fire inside his science classroom, wounding a classmate and a teacher.
The student protesters lay on the ground for 12 minutes, which represented the number of mass shootings since the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June of 2016.
Each held a sunflower representing the flowers that Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver had purchased at the Publix on Valentine’s Day just hours before he was killed.
At one point, a counter protester, Bill Caracofe, stuck his middle finger an inch from Hogg’s face outside the grocery store just a few miles from the school where 17 of Hogg’s classmates and teachers were gunned down.
Shoppers carefully walk among the protesters to get to the Publix refrigerator
Hogg’s twitter response to the suspension of political donations
‘There are millions and millions of people who don’t worship everything that comes out of his mouth,’ said Caracofe, who joined about a dozen NRA supporters who counter-protested inside the store. He said the students’ anger toward Publix should be directed at the sheriff’s office and school district for failing to protect them.
Hogg said such reactions are common, saying the media has falsely portrayed him as someone who wants to seize guns.
He said he supports the Second Amendment but wants tighter regulations, universal background checks and training for people who own AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles.
Publix has been a strong Putnam supporter.
Campaign finance records show that Publix, its top executives and board members, and their family members have donated more than $750,000 altogether to Putnam or his political committee.
A former top Publix executive who is related to the chairman of Putnam’s committee has donated an additional $65,000.
The suspension announced Friday applies only to money from the company, which has given $413,000 to Putnam over about three years.
The supermarket chain is one of a long line of Florida corporations that has helped bankroll Putnam’s candidacy. Over the last three years Putnam has also gotten substantial financial help from Walt Disney Co., Florida Power & Light and U.S. Sugar. Disney has given more than $800,000 to Putnam’s political committee, including a $50,000 check it gave him earlier this month.
Publix said it supports candidates focused on building the economy.
‘We regret that some of our political contributions have led to an unintentional customer divide instead of our desire to support a growing economy in Florida,’ the company said in a statement.