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St. Pete fires officer who said 'there is no saving' gang members

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was fired Wednesday after the department said he made inappropriate comments online that young gang members were "a lost cause."

"They deserve death or prison," Officer David Garrett wrote on Facebook, according to the agency. "There is no saving them."

The four-year veteran was fired by St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway after a command review board examined the allegations.

The incident took place on Dec. 27 while Garrett was using a fake name online, the department said, to hide his identity as a police officer.

He joined an online discussion in Facebook comments about young people who join gangs. He shared a YouTube link of a rap video featuring teens or young adults holding various types of guns and blades. The video, Garrett said in the Facebook comments, was produced by a St. Petersburg gang, and said: "I've arrested many, many of the people in the videos. …?"

He also stated: "Incarcerate all of them."

In the back-and-forth of the Facebook comments, Garrett faced off against those who challenged his views. Police provided screenshots of the Facebook comments, but redacted the names of those involved in the discussion.

One commenter asked if those in the video should be "taught and inspired to choose a different path?" No, Garrett said.

"How do we stop the cycle?" another person wrote.

Garrett: "Stop the cycle? Incarcerate all of them. Currently the justice system think(s) … (that they) can be rehabilitated. They cannot."

The officer went by the alias of Dave Gee online. Police said someone connected him to the comments made by that alias because Dave Gee's account featured photos of Garrett in uniform. Someone shared those posts with police.

The complaint of conduct unbecoming an employee was sustained against Garrett.

"Officer Garrett's comments on social media brought discredit to himself, the Department and adversely affected his job, as well as his reputation or goodwill in the community," the agency said in a statement.

Garrett declined to comment Wednesday.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

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