Rispoli was fired along with another officer, Angelo Varisco, who “liked” the Facebook post, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said at a news conference.
“This incident, we feel, has been an embarrassment to our department,” Lawson said. “These officers have certainly acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act be conducted against a sitting U.S. [congresswoman], a member of our government [and] we are not going to tolerate that.”
Ocasio-Cortez blamed President Trump’s rhetoric for Rispoli’s comment.
“This is Trump’s goal when he uses targeted language & threatens elected officials who don’t agree w/ his political agenda,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s authoritarian behavior. The President is sowing violence. He’s creating an environment where people can get hurt & he claims plausible deniability.”
Ocasio-Cortez and three other minority freshman lawmakers dubbed “the Squad” have become frequent targets of President Trump, who said the four citizens and members of Congress should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Lawson, the police chief, did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. In an interview with nola.com, he initially called Rispoli’s comment “disturbing” and probably in violation of department social media policies, but he stopped short of describing it as a threat.
By Monday afternoon, however, Lawson told reporters that Rispoli and Varisco had been fired. The chief said the department had inquired with Facebook to learn whether other officers had liked, commented or otherwise interacted with the post before terminating Varisco.
Rispoli’s comment was made in response to a post on a self-described satirical page, tatersgonnatate.com, with the headline “Ocasio-Cortez on the Budget: ‘We Pay Soldiers Too Much.’ ”
Lawson reiterated at the news conference that he did not think Rispoli’s Facebook post was a legitimate threat.
Rispoli was a 14-year veteran of the Gretna Police Department. Varisco had served for less than three years.
Both men performed security detail in a local government building that contains a courtroom and Gretna City Hall, and Rispoli recently worked as part of a program that supervised people placed under house arrest. Neither had served on the streets as patrol officers, Nola.com reported, and the only two arrests made between them took place inside the courtroom.
After speaking with Rispoli, Lawson said Monday afternoon that the officer was apologetic for the post. He indicated that Rispoli made a bad decision “in the heat of the moment.”
Rispoli could not be reached for comment.
Belinda Constant, the Democratic mayor of Gretna, a city of about 18,000 outside New Orleans, did not reply to a request for comment. Nor did any of the four city council members.
Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police, declined to say whether the agency viewed the posting as a threat.
“We do not discuss how we carry out our protective responsibilities for Congress,” she said. A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to a request for comment.
Police officers nationwide have faced waves of scrutiny following investigations of social media posts by 3,500 current and former police officers published by the nonprofit Plain View Project. In Philadelphia alone, 72 officers were pulled from street duty. The department plans to fire 13 of them for violent, racist and homophobic posts.
Rispoli’s comments appear to be on his page marked for friends and friends of friends only. It was not clear how his comments circulated.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the message of these elected officials and how frustrated you may or may not get, this certainly is not the type of thing that a public servant should be posting,” said Lawson, the police chief.
Morgan Krakow contributed to this report.