The police chief of Davie, Fla., who is accused of saying a Florida sheriff’s deputy died of COVID-19 because he was gay, has announced he’s retiring.
Members of a Florida police union say Chief Dale Engle made the remark after Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Shannon Bennett died in April of complications related to the virus. Engle tried to minimize his department’s concerns about COVID by saying Bennett was a “homosexual who attended homosexual ‘sexual’ events” and had “a serious underlying disease, which aggravated the COVID-19 virus,” according to a letter from the Florida State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, Labor Council Committee, sent to Davie Town Administrator Richard J. Lemack. Davie is in south Florida, within Broward County.
Bennett’s fiancé, Jonathan Frey, said the deputy had no underlying health condition, and of course, there is no connection between the virus and sexuality. Engle, who has denied making the statements, was placed on administrative leave while his conduct was investigated. The results of the investigation are expected to be released soon.
Now Engle is retiring after more than 20 years working for the city. He sent a letter to Davie officials last week saying he will retire effective September 3, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. He won’t be on duty the whole time but will collect a paycheck, and his retirement benefits won’t be affected.
Engle said the city did not pressure him to leave, but he added that his teenage children received many negative comments about him on social media, and that influenced his decision to retire, the Sun Sentinel reports. Regarding the allegations of remarks about Bennett, “I maintain my innocence,” he told the paper Monday night.
In his letter, Engle thanked his colleagues and town residents, saying he had “nothing but respect for the pride and professionalism that everyone within the Town of Davie demonstrates every day.” Patrick Lynn, a retired Davie police chief, has been serving as chief again while Engle was on leave; it’s unknown if he’ll continue in the position.
Bennett had been with the Broward Sheriff’s Office since 2007 and was most recently assigned as a resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School. The deputy was praised for his work at the school, at Pride events, and elsewhere. He was the first Florida police officer to die of the virus in the line of duty.