Port Canaveral police Sgt. Ron King has defended himself in a nearly 5-minute YouTube video, saying his firing for displaying shooting targets resembling Trayvon Martin was “based on lies, false information and political agendas.”
And King said Port Canaveral interim Chief Executive Officer John Walsh’s accusation that he offered hoodie-style targets to other officers to shoot was “a complete fabrication.”
Local 6 reached out to King on Monday but no one answered at his home.
Local 6 News partner Florida Today reports that King took shooting targets resembling Trayvon Martin to an April 4 training session at a Brevard County Sheriff’s Work Farm shooting range in west Cocoa.
A fellow officer reported the incident, triggering an internal investigation. King was placed on paid administrative leave Friday and given a notice of termination.
Seated behind a computer monitor during his nearly 6-minute video statement, King apologized to Martin’s family and fellow officers.
“I remain a professional law enforcement officer and a professional firearms instructor. I refuse to sit by while others use the Martin family and myself as a way to further their own political and career agendas,” he said.
King said he should have never offered a hoodie-style target to the fellow sergeant who filed the complaint against him. He also speculated that the sergeant wants to bring bad publicity to the department to discredit Port Canaveral Police Chief Joe Hellebrand.
“Because the Trayvon Martin incident is a high-profile case, it is being used to distract from the true agenda. And this is where both I and the Martin family should feel used and violated,” King said.
But Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, was highly critical of King.
“It is absolutely reprehensible that a high-ranking member of the Port Canaveral Police, sworn to protect and serve Floridians, would use the image of a dead child as target practice,” Crump said. “Such a deliberate and depraved indifference to this grieving family is unacceptable. The citizens of Port Canaveral deserve better.”
Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who faces a second-degree murder charge in Martin’s February 2012 shooting death in Sanford, is set to go on trial June 10.
Referring to witness statements in his internal-investigation case, King said he referred to the targets as “a no-shoot training aid.” He denied that he suggested anyone shoot at the target, which features a faceless silhouette of a person in a hoodie holding a beverage can, a pack of Skittles candy tucked in a pocket. Crosshairs appear on its chest.
King’s firing has garnered national media attention. Canaveral Port Authority Chairman Tom Weinberg deferred comment Sunday to Walsh and Rosalind Harvey, the port’s senior director of communications and community affairs. Neither returned messages left on their cellphones. As a firearms instructor, King estimated he has trained more than 1,000 people during his career.