A retired cop sparked a debate on social media with a comment he made regarding the recent shooting at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport.
Rob O’Donnell, a retired NYPD detective who now works as a security consultant and director of public safety for a town in Pennsylvania, often tweets messages that are supportive of police officers.
On Jan. 6, after a gunman shot to death five people at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport airport, O’Donnell posted an image to his Twitter account showing a police officer standing outside the airport while frightened people lie face-down in the grass around him.
“Ft Lauderdale: I see black/white/latino/male/female/child/adult all with one thing in common. A Police Officer risking it all to protect them,” O’Donnell wrote.
The tweet has since been liked more than 36,000 times and retweeted over 18,000 times.
“This is what we do,” O’Donnell told the Independent Journal Review. “Are we 100 percent perfect? Absolutely not. But because 0.02 step out of line, why are we all police the targets?”
The majority of people commenting on O’Donnell’s tweet expressed support for his message.
For example, New York State Senator Fred Akshar tweeted: “This picture sums up how incredibly selfless our first responders are throughout our State and our Nation.”
But others were quick to dismiss the photo’s significance, stating that the officer was merely doing his job and does not deserve any special attention.
“Would you like to give [the officer] a medal because he was completing the most fundamental purpose of his job? Lol,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Also I see a wall which protects them as well,” tweeted another, referring to the shallow barrier separating the sidewalk from what appears to be a parking garage.
In response, O’Donnell brought up the case of Officer Darren Wilson, who resigned in 2014 after he shot and killed Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri.
“For all of those commenting ‘it’s his job’ on my Ft Lauderdale tweet, just remember: Officer Darren Wilson was ‘doing his job’ as well,” he wrote.
O’Donnell explained to IJR why he believes it’s misguided to minimize an officer’s actions by saying he or she is simply doing their job.
“No department policy ever states to open yourself to imminent physical danger, but Law Enforcement all over this country do [hundreds] of times daily,” he said. “Look at Dallas, we were being protested and once the shots rang targeting us, the police, we shielded and protected all lives.”
Authorities have since identified the Fort Lauderdale shooter as Esteban Santiago, a 26-year-old Army veteran, according to CNN. He appeared in federal court Jan. 9 where he was informed that two of the three charges against him are punishable by death. Santiago’s motive for the attack remains unknown, and the FBI is reportedly not ruling out terrorism.