A Pacific Grove police officer who was twice investigated by his department—once for possible affiliation with anti-government militia groups and second for launching a Parler account that featured, among other posts, the messages “Fuck Black Lives Matter” and "Free Kyle Rittenhouse"—is no longer employed by the city.
It is unclear from an official statement released by Chief of Police Cathy Madalone whether the officer left on his own volition or whether he was fired.
But a fundraiser launched by Vallerie Gonzalez on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo, she states Officer Michael Gonzalez was "unlawfully terminated" from his job and a lawsuit is in the works.
It is unclear if and how Vallerie Gonzalez is related to Michael Gonzalez.
Per a statement and video message from Chief of Police Cathy Madalone: “I am here today to provide an update regarding the investigation related to disparaging social media remarks made by an officer of this department. As of today, that officer is no longer employed by the City of Pacific Grove in any capacity. Unfortunately, I am unable to disclose or comment any further due to legal constraints.
“I understand you would like to have more details, and I would like to provide them to you," she says, "but based on the law, I am prohibited from commenting any further on this personnel matter.”
The situation first became public in June, when a citizen made an official complaint about the officer’s personal vehicle, which was parked on city property and featured bumper stickers that included “LGBT,” for Liberty, Guns, Beer and Trump; Molon Labe (a Second Amendment rights rallying cry taken from the ancient Greek meaning “come and take them;" and The Three Percenters, or III%, ia far-right militia group whose name comes from the misguided belief that only 3 percent of colonists took up arms against the British during the Revolutionary War. Percenterism is one of three core components in the anti-government militia movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The city hired an outside law firm to investigate, at a cost of $23,605, while the officer was on paid administrative leave. He returned to duty.
Then in December, concerned citizens took screen shots of a verified Parler account belonging to the officer, in which he posted, among other things, the call to free Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager accused of shooting and killing two protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, WI, as well as the "Fuck Black Lives Matter" posts. Parler account holders who have verified accounts are required to show government ID and to provide other identifying information, including social security numbers, in order to be verified.
The day after the screenshots of the Parler posts were sent to the Weekly, Madalone called a rare Sunday afternoon press conference on Dec. 4 to announce, once again, that the officer was being placed on leave pending outcome of an investigation using an outside firm.
It's not clear if that investigation was concluded and led to the officer's departure, or if it was ongoing.
The officer's last day with the department was today, Jan. 13.
Some in the community rallied to his defense after the December incident, pointing out the officer had been lauded for bravery for his part in rescuing two Black kayakers who nearly drowned in the Monterey Bay. They also referenced the officer, who is Latino, has a Black stepfather.
On the fundraiser, Vallerie Gonzalez writes that Michael Gonzalez was "harassed" due to his beliefs by PG Councilwoman Jenny McAdams, and stated that people who disagreed with his views posted his name, license plate and pictures on the Internet.
"In the (Parler) posts, Officer Gonzalez expressed his Political views against the Black Lives Matter Organization due to thier (sic) calls for Defunding Police," she writes. "The content of the posts is fully within the boundaries of law and in no way expressing threatening or hateful thoughts."
She adds, "Officer Gonzalez has unfortunately been UNLAWFULLY TERMINATED from the Pacific Grove Police Department for his political beliefs. Officer Gonzalez's livelyhood (sic) has been ripped from him, his income, his healthcare and his ability to care for his family."
In her message, Madalone says that since June of this year, PG officers have attended more than 20 courses, including ethical decision making, bias, and racial profiling; de-escalation techniques; exploring racism and living the solution; law enforcement and the transgender community; LGBT Community awareness for law enforcement; social media and law enforcement; mental health training; and tactical communications.
She also stated the PGPD recently became the first law enforcement agency to be CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) accredited within a three-county radius (Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito).
"National accreditation is not a guarantee we will do everything perfect because we are not perfect. It is a framework and foundation for conducting business professionally and transparently," she says. "We are human. We make mistakes, but we strive to continuously improve, which is why we conduct regular training and use accountability and transparency tools such as body-worn cameras."
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.