The San Jose Police Department has a placed a veteran officer on leave and is investigating threatening comments from his Twitter account about demonstrators who have participated in protests over the recent deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and New York.
Officer Phillip White, who has been on the force 20 years, was placed on administrative leave after tweets captured by BuzzFeed News were published over the weekend. Officer White wrote, “If anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter, I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun,” according to the BuzzFeed article.
In another, he vowed to use his “God-given and law-appointed right and duty to kill” if threatened.
Other tweets captured by BuzzFeed showed him ridiculing protesters who shut down the West Oakland BART Station and criticizing members of the UC Berkeley women’s basketball team who took part in protests.
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The tweets and White's Twitter account have been deleted amid a social media firestorm over the comments. White's department, union and a college where he coached basketball all condemned the comments.
"It is extremely important for the community to know the comments made on Officer White's private social media account do not reflect the thoughts or feelings of the men and women here at the San Jose Police Department,'' San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel said.
In a previous statement offered over the weekend, the department said it was "aware of the issue and forwarded it up the chain of command for review."
The department said it has received "numerous media inquiries'' about White since the online news site Buzzfeed reported the officer's tweets Sunday.
"Offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate social media comments have no place in the public discourse surrounding the tragic loss of life from recent officer involved incidents,'' the San Jose Police Officers' Association said in a prepared statement. "We condemn these comments.''
Menlo College cut ties with White, who served as a paid, part-time assistant basketball coach. "The college will not be represented by expressions of intolerance and bigotry on the campus, on social media, or on the Internet,'' the college said in a statement.
The police union also condemned the tweet messages.
"Offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate comments on social media have no place in the public discourse surrounding the tragic loss of life in officer-involved incidents around the country,” POA Board Member James Gonzales said.
The San Jose Mercury News in October wrote about the 20-year veteran's success with a gang prevention education program for schoolchildren. The paper reported that the program was widely regarded for addressing life issues with youngsters, including choices and consequences, peer pressure and bullying and harassment prevention.
White was described as "really dynamic with the kids'' in the story. The paper also described him as a "positive role model'' for the children enrolled in the gang prevention program.
Police watchdog group Silicon Valley De-Bug started an online petition demanding White be fired, collecting nearly 9,000 signatures as of Monday evening. "It's a bit if social media karma considering this was sparked by these completely irrational, dangerous tweets sent by Officer White,” the group’s Raj Jayadev said.
Attempts by NBC Bay Area to reach Officer White for comment were not successful.
The Associated Press and NBC Bay Area's Robert Handa contributed to this report.