Cop Under Scrutiny Over Social-Media Posts That Call Parkland Students ‘Paid Actors’

NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FL — A police officer is under investigation in connection with social-media posts suggesting the Parkland school massacre could be a hoax — and the students “paid actors” instead of survivors.

“What proof do you have?” asks a post under the name of Ericson Harrell, a North Miami Beach police officer. “What evidence do you have, that anyone was killed other than #MSM accounts, alleged witnesses and a couple of funeral processions?”

The police department has begun an internal investigation into that post and others, said police Maj. Richard Rand, a department spokesman.

The internal-affairs investigation began Friday after inquiries from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Neither Harrell nor a police union representative could be reached for comment.

The officer has been with the agency for 19 years, records show.

Harrell, 43, has drawn headlines before over his views.

Plantation police arrested him in 2013, saying he refused to take off a mask during a one-man public protest against Obamacare on the sidewalk. Officers asked him repeatedly to remove his smiling, mustached Guy Fawkes mask, an iconic image that’s been adopted by protesters as well as the hacktivist online group known as Anonymous.

The Broward State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Harrell on charges of obstructing traffic and violating an anti-mask law. In dismissing the charges, a prosecutor concluded the anti-mask law was vague, and that Harrell would argue a constitutional rights violation.

Still, Harrell faced discipline at work. The North Miami Beach police said in 2015 that he was docked 20 hours pay for violating internal policies, including spending excessive amounts of time on Facebook, YouTube and conspiracy theory-related websites during work hours.

The latest internal investigation stems from posts on a Facebook account that bears his name. The account makes references to police work, including a recent entry that described a child refusing to talk to a stranger. It had the hashtags #NeverTalktoPolice and #ThePenitentCop.

A Facebook post that asked for proof of the Feb. 14 Parkland mass shooting included the hashtags #StonemanDouglas and #SandyHook, the site of the 2012 Connecticut school shooting.

Also on the Facebook page:

— A day after the Parkland massacre, one post asks, “What if the cops went into school and shot and kill some students?! Would they be forthcoming? Lawsuits would help to find out.” The post didn’t elaborate further.

— Another Feb. 15 post asks, “Why does the United States keep having these ‘Mass Shootings?’ It’s almost like it’s planned!!!”

— A post on Feb. 19 asks, “Have you noticed these ‘mass school shootings’ occur in wealthy communities? Then afterwards millions of dollars are dumped into them. Payoff money??”

— A March 22 post refers to the Parkland students featured on the cover of Time magazine as, “All paid actors/actresses!!”

— A March 12 post asks, “Why hasn’t anybody accused of being a crisis actor filed a single defamation lawsuit? Could it be because truth is an absolute defense?”

— Another post shows a screenshot of a Parkland shooting victim’s mother screaming in distress on national television, calling it “bad acting.”

On Friday, a woman answering the phone at Harrell’s home identified herself as his domestic partner. She said she was unaware of the posts and didn’t comment further.

The posts on the Facebook page go beyond discussing Stoneman Douglas.

One cites a New York Post story about a lawmaker blaming Jews for the bad weather. The post says, “You know you’re onto something when they play the ‘Anti-Semitic’ card!!”

Another post calls the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks an “inside job.”

From The Sun Sentinel

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