DAVIE, Fla. – The fiancé of deceased Deputy Shannon Bennett is reacting to the allegations leveled against Davie Police Chief Dale Engle. Davie police officers said that the police chief suggested that the Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy’s death from COVID-19 was somehow linked to his sexuality and that contracting a serious underlying disease from his lifestyle was what aggravated the COVID-19 virus.
On Sunday, Jonathan Frey, who was to marry Bennett in December, issued this statement:
“The Chief’s alleged comments are completely false, homophobic, and slanderous. I look forward to the fair and impartial investigation initiated by the Town Manager, and I hope that appropriate action will be taken at its conclusion.”
In an interview with Local 10 in the days following Bennett’s death, Frey said Bennett did not have any underlying health issues.
The allegations against Engle came to light when Mike Tucker, chief of staff of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, sent a letter to the Davie town manager, which brought up an incident after officers had expressed concerns about their protection on the job against COVID-19.
The letter from the Florida State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, Labor Council Committee, sent directly to Davie’s Town Administrator Richard J Lemack, stated that on Tuesday officers and service aides "... inquired about safety protocols and protections . . . " The letter states that Engle “chose to instead retaliate against our members . . . ordering them to the parking lot and into formation (like cadets back in the patrol academy)."
Here, Engle "allegedly berated them, and yelled about a '...backstory’ which proclaimed that Deputy Shannon Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a "homosexual who attended homosexual ‘sexual’ events.”
The FOP said that the officers recalled that after making the comments about Bennett who, according to Engle’s alleged remarks, “first contracted a serious underlying disease, which aggravated the COVID-19 virus and lead to his death,” that the police chief’s rant “continued for some time.”
“This obviously was shocking to the members that were present, who are right now looking for reassurance. . . who were looking for guidance,” said Tucker.
Saturday night, a statement from Lemack on behalf of the Town of Davie confirmed that Engle had been placed on leave.
“As of April 11, 2020, Police Chief Dale Engle was placed on Administrative leave pending further review of allegations brought forward by the Fraternal Order of Police. The allegations will be investigated in accordance with the Town’s Equal Employment Opportunity compliance policy by outside counsel. The Town will have no further comment until the investigation is completed to protect the integrity of all involved.”
Tucker said if the allegations are true, "it's obviously extremely disturbing."
Bennett, 39, was beloved by his community and by the kids where he was a school resource officer in Deerfield Beach.
He’s believed to be the first law enforcement officer in Florida to die from the virus. The Broward Sheriff’s Office said he died “in the line of duty.”
“For any reference to be made to the tragic passing of one of our brothers at the Broward Sheriff’s Office is , if true, is absolutely not only unacceptable but is just shameful. And it’s not indicative of the professionals of the Town of Davie that we know,” said Tucker.
The Fraternal Order of Police said that Engle does deserve due process and there will be an investigation. The Town of Davie will engage outside counsel to conduct the investigation.