A San Jose police officer who targeted Ferguson protesters using his personal Twitter account in December is no longer working with the department.
The San Jose Police Department on Thursday declined to say whether Officer Phillip White was fired, but confirmed he was no longer working for the city. The department declined to elaborate on the reason for White’s departure.
White was the focus of a department investigation and was placed on leave for his tweets, which came at the height of nationwide protests stemming from the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. In both cases, juries exonerated the officers.
White deleted his tweets, but they were captured by BuzzFeed and the San Jose Mercury News.
One read: “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter”
“By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”
At the time, thousands of protesters were demonstrating over the deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers. On social media, protesters used the phrase #BlackLivesMatter, an organized movement founded by three women. The hashtag is still used today.
The “can’t breathe” in White’s tweet referred to Garner’s last words before he died after a New York police officer took him to the ground with a chokehold. After Garner’s death, protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” in memory of Garner and injustices.
White’s tweets drew public backlash, prompting San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel to publicly condemn 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,” he said in a statement at the time. “Nor do we condone this type of behavior.”
The San Jose Police Officers’ Assn. said White’s tweets were disrespectful.
“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 union’s statement read.
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