Shannon Bennett proposing to Jonathan FreyPhoto: Screenshot/Local 10 News
A police chief in Florida has been placed on leave after several deputies were allegedly berated and forced to listen to him blame a fellow officer’s death from coronavirus on his homosexuality.
In a letter to the Town Administrator of Davie, Florida, the state’s Fraternal Order of Police accused Davie Police Chief Dale Engle of saying that Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Bennett died from coronavirus because of his “homosexual lifestyle.”
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The letter, signed by Florida State FOP chief of staff Mike Tucker, alleges that several officers in Davie were asking questions about the police department’s coronavirus response last Tuesday.
These questions apparently set Engle off. He allegedly ordered the officers to go out to the parking lot and line up in formation “like cadets back in the police academy.”
He then yelled and berated them about their “baseless” concerns. He brought up Bennett, who got engaged to his partner Jonathan Frey last December and tragically died from coronavirus at age 39.
Engle allegedly said that the officers didn’t understand the “backstory” that led to Bennett’s death. The FOP’s letter says that Engle said this “backstory” was that Bennett was a “homosexual who attended homosexual ‘sexual’ events” and that he contracted “a serious underlying disease which aggravated the COVID-19 virus and led to his death.”
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Bennett’s underlying condition was asthma.
The FOP letter accuses Chief Engle of continuing this rant for some time in order to intimidate the officers so that they would stop raising questions about the department’s coronavirus response.
Later, in an email, Engle said that his comments were “taken out of context” and that he was trying to “provide as much information as possible.”
Tucker’s letter said his actions were “unacceptable” and “constitute a hostile work environment.” The letter called for “an immediate and thorough investigation.”
Davie Town Council member Bryan Caletka said that Engle has been placed on leave and that an independent law firm has been hired to conduct an investigation.
Frey, the fiance of late Deputy Bennett, is outraged by the alleged comments and issued a statement.
“The Chief’s alleged comments are completely false, homophobic, and slanderous,” he said. “I look forward to the fair and impartial investigation by the Town Manager, and I hope that appropriate action will be taken from its conclusion.”