Another day, another public official wishing death and dismemberment upon the teenage survivors of the worst school shooting in South Florida history. After a North Miami Beach cop was suspended for calling the Parkland massacre survivors "crisis actors," and a member of the Parkland Education Advisory Board was outed for calling survivor and gun-control advocate David Hogg a Nazi, a Coral Springs cop — who works mere miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High — has been suspended for suggesting someone run Hogg and his friends over.
Last week, Hogg held a "die-in" at a Coral Springs Publix to protest that grocery chain's monetary support for Adam Putnam, a gubernatorial candidate who has described himself as a "proud NRA sellout." In response, the GOP-donating Publix temporarily stopped giving money to political candidates. And as a result, 23-year Coral Springs Officer Brian Valenti just sorta casually let it slip that he wouldn't mind if Hogg got run down.
"Hope some old lady looses [sic] control of her car in that lot," Valenti wrote on Facebook. "Jus sayin...”
Thankfully, that didn't happen. Instead, someone alerted the media to the post, and this past Tuesday, Coral Springs Police Chief Albert A. "Butch" Arenal announced Valenti has been suspended for five days.
"Our officers have walked alongside Parkland students providing security during protests, have attended and assisted with events and vigils in Parkland to show solidarity with our kids, and our amazing employees have gone above and beyond the call of duty to be there for our community in a time of need," Arenal wrote in a multiparagraph statement to the public yesterday. "We have also worked at the state level to facilitate positive change to preclude future school shootings from ever occurring. The poor judgment of one employee in one instance should not reflect on our organization as a whole. As chief of police, I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by Officer Valenti’s post. I am accountable for the actions of all employees who work [for] the police department."
Hogg's die-in — in which he and a group of protesters lay in the supermarket's parking lot to simulate victims of gun violence — came after Publix rocketed from being one of the most beloved corporate chains in Florida to being reviled by the anti-gun left.
As with nearly every other major grocery chain, Publix's corporate stances have always leaned to the far right. The store donates to Republicans, refuses to engage with farmworkers' rights groups in Southwest Florida, has faced repeated anti-LGBTQ accusations, and has fought minimum-wage increases and environmental regulations.
But after the Tampa Bay Times reported that Publix and people tied to the chain have given Putnam an astounding $670,000 over the past three years, Hogg and other Parkland activists pushed gun-safety groups to boycott the chain. Mere days later, the store relented and temporarily suspended political giving.
But apparently, Officer Valenti thought he could get away with publicly insulting school-shooting survivors — an idea that, until February, seemed like the sort of thing only psychopaths did. Yet Valenti is far from alone.
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Take, for instance, North Miami Beach Police Officer Ericson Harrell, who was suspended in April after someone noticed he had posted online that the Parkland survivors were "ALL PAID ACTORS / ACTRESSES."
As if that weren't bananas enough, New Times also caught multiple state lawmakers liking tweets insulting Parkland survivors mere weeks after the shooting, while the Tampa Bay Times also infamously outed another since-fired legislative aide who claimed the teens were "crisis actors." Furthermore, New Times in April caught a member of the Parkland Education Advisory Board — a group that gives policy recommendations to that city's council — sharing memes comparing Hogg to a Nazi.
Now, in his statement to the media yesterday, Coral Springs' police chief basically dashed the whole thing off by saying "our bad" and asking for forgiveness. He said Valenti's statement "missed the mark," which is certainly one way of saying, "I'm sorry my cop asked someone to run over a school-shooting survivor."
"While one of our officers clearly missed the mark in this particular situation," Arenal wrote, "rest assured that the Coconut Creek Police Department will work tirelessly to maintain a level of service to our residents and neighbors that not only meets their expectations, but exceeds them."