As controversy swirls around President Trump’s racist comments about four minority freshman lawmakers dubbed “the Squad,” two Louisiana police officers were fired Monday for a Facebook post that suggested Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) should be shot.
Charlie Rispoli, an officer with the police force in Gretna, La., wrote on Facebook: “This vile idiot needs a round........and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” referring to a gunshot and the lawmaker’s earlier career as a bartender. It was not clear from Rispoli’s post, which has since been deleted, whether he knew he was sharing and commenting on a story from a satire website.
Nola.com originally reported the Facebook post and acquired an image before it was deleted.
Rispoli was fired along with another officer, Angelo Varisco, who “liked” the Facebook post, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said at a news conference.
“These officers have certainly acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act be conducted against a sitting U.S. [congresswoman], a member of our government [and] we are not going to tolerate that.”
Ocasio-Cortez blamed Trump’s rhetoric for Rispoli’s comment.
“This is Trump’s goal when he uses targeted language & threatens elected officials who don’t agree w/ his political agenda,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s authoritarian behavior. The President is sowing violence. He’s creating an environment where people can get hurt & he claims plausible deniability.”
Lawson, the police chief, did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. In an interview with Nola.com, he initially called Rispoli’s comment “disturbing” and probably in violation of department social media policies, but he stopped short of describing it as a threat.
By Monday afternoon, however, Lawson told reporters that Rispoli and Varisco had been fired. The chief said the department had inquired with Facebook to learn whether other officers had liked, commented or otherwise interacted with the post before terminating Varisco.
Rispoli’s comment was made in response to a post on a self-described satirical page, tatersgonnatate.com, with the headline “Ocasio-Cortez on the Budget: ‘We Pay Soldiers Too Much.’”
Lawson reiterated at the news conference that he did not think Rispoli’s Facebook post was a legitimate threat.
Rispoli was a 14-year veteran of the Gretna Police Department. Varisco had served for less than three years.
Both men performed security detail in a local government building that contains a courtroom and Gretna City Hall, and Rispoli recently worked as part of a program that supervised people placed under house arrest. Neither had served on the streets as patrol officers, Nola.com reported, and the only two arrests made between them took place inside the courtroom.
After speaking with Rispoli, Lawson said Monday afternoon that the officer was apologetic for the post. He indicated that Rispoli made a bad decision “in the heat of the moment.”
Rispoli could not be reached for comment.
Belinda Constant, the Democratic mayor of Gretna, a city of about 18,000 outside New Orleans, did not reply to a request for comment. Nor did any of the four city council members.
Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police, declined to say whether the agency viewed the posting as a threat.
“We do not discuss how we carry out our protective responsibilities for Congress,” she said. A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to a request for comment.
Police officers nationwide have faced waves of scrutiny following investigations of social media posts by 3,500 current and former police officers published by the nonprofit Plain View Project. In Philadelphia alone, 72 officers were pulled from street duty. The department plans to fire 13 of them for violent, racist and homophobic posts.
Rispoli’s comments appear to be on his page marked for friends and friends of friends only. It was not clear how his comments circulated.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the message of these elected officials and how frustrated you may or may not get, this certainly is not the type of thing that a public servant should be posting,” said Lawson, the police chief.