The Lee County Sheriff's Office in Florida fired a member of the force for posting overtly racist comments on his Facebook page, on which he listed the police department as his employer, a local NBC affiliate reports. Now, he's going to the media to make a case for his behavior.
"According to an internal affairs report," the news outlet writes, "Deputy Jean Lopez was fired in April for posting racial comments on his Facebook page."
In March, Lopez posted a video of a black man talking about the company he owns. The deputy's accompanying commentary: "Can someone please tell me what the [expletive] this monkey is saying?"
Lopez went on: "Get a real life [expletive] monkey."
Police investigators report that, while Lopez says he and his friends refer to black people as "monkeys" in social settings, "he would never use the term in uniform."
NBC 2 reports a laundry list of offenses Lopez committed on the force before his racist Facebook posts came to light, including:
- Involvement in the shooting of Joshua Young in March 2014, for which the officer was placed on administrative leave.
- Allegations of "having sex with a prostitute" in 2013.
- Participation in a "domestic dispute" in 2009, for which Lopez was "reprimanded."
- Improper handling of "a suspect's money" in 2008.
- Threatening to kill his wife in 2008, which investigators say "violated policies."
Lopez tells NBC 2 that calling people monkeys isn't racist. "Lopez tells us it's just something he calls people saying 'stupid or funny stuff,'" the news outlet reports. "He admits he knows it has racial connotations, but doesn't think the punishment is fair."
Lopez neighbor agrees.
"He has an opinion like anybody else," neighbor Dennis Sweany tells NBC 2. "Just because he is a deputy doesn't mean he can't say his opinion I don't think."
Lopez's superiors on the force have a different perspective.
"It's not acceptable and that's why he's out of a job," Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott says. The racist Facebook post "was so far contrary for what we stand for and what I expect for a deputy sheriff that we said bye-bye."
Watch former Florida police officer Jean Lopez defend calling black people "monkeys:"