An Orlando officer suspended for 80 hours following a Facebook rant in which he dubbed Black athletes who kneel during the national anthem “useless savages” insists he had no intentions of coming off as a racist.
At an arbitration hearing Thursday, officer Robert Schellhorn expressed remorse for his actions and admitted to using “unbelievably hateful language” in voicing his frustrations over the anthem protests, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Schellhorn, who sought a lighter suspension of 16 hours, called his remarks an “emotional buildup” from the recent killings of fellow officers and said he was sensitive to criticism of police at the time. During that period, several NFL players, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, were taking a knee to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America.
In a series of comments, the officer condemned Black athletes as “overpaid thugs” and asked, “what exactly are the ‘Black rights’ that these uselesss savages are standing up for???” in reference to players who knelt in protest during the anthem. “Do Black folks somehow have different or greater rights then [sic] everyone else?”
Schellhorn claimed he was unaware his comments, made in August 2017, were viewable by the public. The incendiary remarks appeared in the comments section of a post by Orlando police union chapter president Shawn Dunlap that questioned, “when will they [athletes] use their voice to denounce violence aimed at Law Enforcement???????” according to the newspaper.
Under that very same post, Schellhorn also called Heather Heyer, the woman killed in August 2017 while protesting the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., “an asshole killed by another asshole.”
The officer has since apologized for his posts and insisted his use of the word “savages” wasn’t racially motivated. An October 2017 investigation of a past incident at a gay night club revealed body camera footage of Schellhorn using pepper spray on a group of LGBTQ clubgoers and calling them “[expletive savages]” as well.
“Believe me, I have now learned that is not the word to use,” Schellhorn said at Thursday’s hearing. “But that is the kind of word I use. Instead of calling somebody a dumb ass or a kunucklehead or something along those lines, ‘savages’ is the word I use.”
A decision in the officer’s arbitration is expected in Spring of 2019.
Watch more in the clip below.