The devastating and tragic Las Vegas shooting that occurred on Sunday night has reignited a national conversation about gun control — a continually polarizing topic among politicians and citizens alike.

Since then, many have taken to their social media pages to share their condolences and beliefs on the matter, among them Connecticut real estate agent Ritu Goel, who was, until today, vying for a spot on the town council of South Windsor’s upcoming municipal elections. Goel was running as one of six candidates for town council fielded by the South Windsor Democratic Committee.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Goel went to Facebook and posted the following message: “Prayers for Las Vegas. People who are in favor of guns should have been on that strip.”

Community members, including South Windsor’s mayor Carolyn Mirek, immediately began speaking out against Goel.

“Absolute horror and disgust that anyone could even think these things rather than put them in writing, [sic]” Mirek said in an interview with local broadcast outlet Eyewitness News 3, before posting a YouTube video denouncing what she called “hate speech.”

According to the station’s report, Goel sent a statement to the Journal Inquirer, a local newspaper, where she elaborated on her views: “I’m against guns, and if people are going to advocate about guns and lobby for guns when innocent people died in the streets, then those people should be on the strip to see how it feels to be shot by those guns.”

After her statement to the Journal Inquirer, Goel reportedly posted an apology on the South Windsor Republican Town Committee page: “I realize my comment last night was insensitive and misguided, and I want to apologize once again to anyone who was offended.”

The threatening public response has caused Goel to end her run for a public seat. She released a statement to Eyewitness News 3 on Wednesday, Oct. 4, that read:

“For the safety of my family I am withdrawing my candidacy for town council. I will also step down from the South Windsor Alliance for Progress because I do not want to jeopardize their great work. I am afraid for the safety of my kids, my husband and my mom who is just visiting. I have lived here for 23 years, and that beautiful life has been threatened. My professional life is at stake. Last night I went to the police station accompanied by some fellow Democrats, to ask for police protection.

We recently celebrated diversity in this town. But that is not what I have experienced in the last 24 hours. The calls I am getting not only insult me, but insult our diverse team running for Town Council. The signs for our non-white candidates have been taken off lawns. Another caller said one candidate is “an idiot.”

Politics has become a blood sport in South Windsor. My one badly worded, emotional painful Facebook post was taken out of context and exploited by our political opponents on social media and news channels. An apology has not stopped the hate directed towards me and my family.

I have never advocated violence against anyone, nor did my social media comment. What I expressed is complete frustration with the lack of sensible gun controls and my hope that those who support the NRA in believing that guns are more important than lives will see the Las Vegas tragedy and change their minds.

Kathy Dougherty and the Republicans claim there is “no room for hate” in our town. I would urge her and her colleagues to start at home. Start by truly listening to one another instead of demonizing for the sake of political gain. Think about embracing the frustration everyone is feeling, and find bipartisan solutions to prevent more tragedies. We desperately need to change the culture of this town and our country.”

Divisive speech or free speech?

After multiple calls from community members for a response, the South Windsor Democratic Town Committee Facebook page posted a message on Wednesday afternoon addressing the controversy, saying in part:

“Tragedy sometimes effects people differently and they say things out of anger and frustration, and do not always express themselves appropriately. And because of this a local candidate for 2017 municipal election has been victimized and has received hateful messages threatening her and her family. There is no room in our society for this type of behavior.”

The South Windsor Democratic Committee also posted saying: “We are aware there is now a FAKE Facebook page for Ritu Goel. That page has been reported to Facebook. Creating a page like that only causes more division.” Indeed, Inman was able to find a new Facebook page for Ritu Goel of questionable authenticity.

Earlier in the day, a Facebook user accused the South Windsor Democratic Committee of deleting posts critical of Goel.

Meanwhile, the South Windsor Republican Town Committee has made a number of posts condemning Goel’s initial post and shared screenshots of commenters responding to it.

Community members shared their thoughts about Goel’s statement, which ranged from disgust to applause. Some called for more understanding on both sides of the aisle.

Dzen Realty asked to speak up

The conversation has spilled over to the Dzen Realty Facebook page, where Goel has reportedly and may still be employed — though in what capacity is unclear. The brokerage has 26 reviews, 18 of which have been added within the last 24-36 hours in response to Goel’s actions, many negative, pulling the rating down to 1.8 at the time of this article’s publication.

“Why would any company employ a woman who wants innocent people murdered, simply because they are gun owners,” wrote one reviewer. “This says a lot about your company.”

Dzen Realty wrote, “Ritu’s opinion was posted on her own personal page, it does not represent us or our 30-year commitment to helping people find homes. If you have any further concerns, please let us know!”

Goel appears to have had an agent profile on the Dzen Realty website, but it was removed shortly before this article’s publication.

The brokerage updated their Facebook status to read:

The views regarding the recent horrible events in Las Vegas, by an independent contractor who has provided services to Dzen Realty do not express the views of nor are supported by Dzen Realty.

We’ve reached out to Goel and Dzen Realty for comment, and we’ll update the story accordingly when we hear back.

Email Marian McPherson.

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