Davie’s Police Chief was put on administrative leave after he allegedly claimed a gay sheriff’s deputy died of COVID-19 because he was a "homosexual who attended homosexual sexual events."
Mike Tucker, chief of staff of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, sent a letter to Davie’s Town Administrator complaining of the police chief’s behavior, and comments about the deputy, who died April 3 from COVID-19.
Shannon Bennett, a gay man, was a 12-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
According to the letter, Police Chief Dale Engle made the remarks after a patrol briefing April 7, according to the FOP complaint.
“[He] allegedly yelled about a ‘backstory’ which proclaimed that Deputy Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a ‘homosexual who attended homosexual sexual events,’” reads the letter. “He intimated that it was because of the homosexual lifestyle that Deputy Bennett first contracted a serious underlying disease which aggravated the Covid-19 virus and lead to his death.”
According to a statement issued by the town Engle was placed on administrative leave Saturday, “pending further review of allegations brought forward by the Fraternal Order of Police.”
Bennett, 39, had been a school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School since January 2019.
Bennett was to wed his partner, Jonathan Frey, in December.
On Sunday, Frey issued this statement to Local 10:
“The Chief’s alleged comments are completely false, homophobic, and slanderous,” Frey said. “I look forward to the fair and impartial investigation initiated by the Town Manager, and I hope that appropriate action will be taken at its conclusion.”
According to reporting from the Sun Sentinel the Broward County Medical Examiner said Bennett’s underlying health condition was asthma.
On Sunday, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony told NBC 6 if the comments were true, they would be considered offensive and homophobic.
"It would be lack of decency and character to make such a suggestion because there's no accurate information out there that would support such a notion," Tony said. "And it would only be something done under derogatory aspect, which would be offensive to me and this agency."
As word spread about the offensive remarks a Change.org petition was launched to urge the town to fire Engle.
It had garnered almost 15,000 signatures in one day.
“Please sign this petition to request an independent third-party investigation into the actions of Davie Police Chief Engle and his removal from the job if his comments regarding BSO Deputy Bennett are substantiated,” the webpage reads.
According to the statement from the town an outside party will investigate the claims.
“The allegations will be investigated in accordance with the Town’s Equal Employment Opportunity compliance policy by outside counsel,” the statement reads.