A police officer in Alabama is on temporary leave for writing on Facebook that he is “seriously offended” by LGBTQ people, after a gay teen died by suicide.
Deputy Jeff Graves of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Huntsville, Alabama, recently wrote on social media: "Liberty. Guns. Bible. Trump. BBQ. That’s my kind of LGBTQ movement. I’m seriously offended there is such a thing... as this movement. Society cannot and should not accept this behavior. I have a right to be offended and will always be offended by this fake movement which requires no special attention but by persons with an altered ego and fake agenda.”
According to AL.com, Graves wrote the message on a post shared by the news station WZDX about a Huntsville High School student named Nigel Shelby, 15, who died by suicide on April 18 after being bullied, according to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
When challenged, Graves wrote that the First Amendment protects his freedom of speech.
#NigelShelby took his life because he was bullied for being gay. Then the Madison County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Graves made homophobic comments on the post. I am disgusted by my hometown. #HuntsvilleAL pic.twitter.com/WEYhiXcCHb— Travis Shrontz 🏳️🌈🦄💕 (@travvytree) April 22, 2019
County Lieutenant Donny Shaw tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement: “The Madison County Sheriff’s Office acknowledges complaints of social media post allegedly made by an employee of the Sheriff’s Office to a local media outlet’s FB post on Sunday. The Sheriff’s Office has assigned these allegations to be audited with the information that has been provided to us. The Sheriff’s Office holds all its employees to [a] high standard, and the public can be assured that a thorough and complete audit will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken.”
The statement continued: “The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the audit. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office responds promptly to allegations of misconduct by any of its employees. The process of investigating misconduct allegations is in accordance with established Madison County Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures and Madison County Personnel Department policies and procedures.”
Shaw confirmed that Graves’ comments were in association with the Facebook post by WZDX Fox 54. “Sheriff Kevin Turner offers his condolences to the family and friends of Nigel Shelby whose young life was lost to suicide last week….”
Turner wrote, “Bullying of any group or person in or outside of schools is unacceptable, and I welcome any and all efforts to raise awareness to bullying and bring bullying to a stop. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is proud of the community support and engagement we have received over the years, and we look forward to growing those community partnerships.”
Shaw says that after the investigation, Turner will call a press conference to “address the community directly.”
Graves did not return an interview request from Yahoo Lifestyle.
Shelby’s mother could not be reached for comment by Yahoo Lifestyle. She has a GoFundMe page for Shelby’s funeral costs, for which people have donated more than $29,000.
Chaundra Jones, who identified herself as Shelby’s aunt, told WAAY 31 that the teen, who loved Ariana Grande and theater, came out when he was 13 years old and had been treated for depression. She said that bullying may have played a role, but that it was not the reason for his death.
Allen Gordon, the assistant director of the Tennessee Valley Rocket City Pride in Huntsville, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he didn’t know Shelby personally; however, the teen was considered an LGBTQ family member. “Many gay kids don’t have accepting families so they create their own,” says Gordon. “Nigel was part out of ours.”
“As a police officer, how do we know he won’t discriminate?” Gordon tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Clearly, he does not view people equally.”
On Sunday, Rocket City Pride raised $835 for Shelby’s funeral through its monthly Huntsville’s Only Drag Brunch and Tuesday night’s “Drag Queen Bingo” event.
Spokespeople for Huntsville High School and Huntsville City Schools did not return emails from Yahoo Lifestyle. On Facebook, principal Aaron King asked parents to be aware of their children’s behavior as they grieve the loss of their friend.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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