First responders in 3 states under investigation for allegedly mocking Charlottesville violence
By LINDSEY BEVER | The Washington Post | Published: August 15, 2017
A Philadelphia firefighter has apologized for an apparently racist photo making light of the protests that turned violent over the weekend in Virginia.
Philadelphia firefighter John Deluisi reportedly tagged an African American colleague in a Facebook photo showing Deluisi wearing a hat emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag and holding a tiki torch. "Headed to VA," the caption read, according to Fox affiliate WTXF.
"I am very disappointed in myself, and I'm very sorry," he told the news station.
"I am an idiot. I am very sorry. Maybe I get too carried away on Facebook, and I put something up there that was stupid. I thought he would get a joke about it. I really did. And thinking about it, it was very stupid," he added.
Deluisi could not immediately be reached for comment by The Washington Post.
Philadelphia Fire Department Capt. William Dixon said the matter is under investigation. He said the fire commissioner is "certainly disturbed" by the preliminary reports but that the department is still working to get to the bottom of it and determine how to best handle the situation.
Indeed, Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said he was "utterly horrified and disgusted."
"Racist images, symbols, words and actions are contrary to our mission and values and have absolutely no place in our Department," Thiel said in a statement Tuesday to The Washington Post. "We will take swift and decisive personnel action after a full investigation. The Department will follow-up with intensive and focused workplace conduct training for our more than 2,600 members.
"While I am disappointed by this event, I know this individual's behavior does not represent the values, dedication and service of our entire Department."
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, D, said the social media post was "very disturbing."
He tweeted: "I denounce white supremacist rallies & violence in Virginia. This is not what America is supposed to be. We're about love & unity, not hate."
Law enforcement officers in two other states are being investigated for similar incidents.
An officer with the Shively Police Department in Kentucky and an officer with the Springfield Police Department in Massachusetts allegedly made fun of the fatal car crash that occurred during the Unite the Right rally Saturday in Charlottesville, where hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with counterprotesters. A 32-year-old Charlottesville woman was killed, and others were wounded in the attack.
In Massachusetts, Springfield police Officer Conrad Lariviere is under investigation after he reportedly commented on a Facebook post about the crash, writing, "Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn't block roads," according to MassLive.com.
In the post, Lariviere also responded to another commenter who had apparently criticized him for his controversial remarks, according to MassLive.com.
"I've been hit by as-bag with warrants but who cares right you ignorant brat live in a fantasy land with the rest of America While I deal with the real danger," he wrote, according to the news site.
Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said he received a complaint Sunday about the Facebook comment.
"The post is purportedly from a Springfield police officer," he said in a statement. "I took immediate steps to initiate a prompt and thorough internal investigation. If in fact this post did originate from an officer employed with the Springfield Police Department, this matter will be reviewed by the Community Police Hearings Board for further action."
Police said Lariviere has been reassigned during the investigation.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Officer Morris Rinehardt has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation into a meme posted over the weekend on Facebook, police said.
The Courier-Journal reported Rinehardt posted a meme depicting the damaged vehicle. It read: "When you were born a Challenger but identify as a Ram."
Rinehardt also reportedly commented "LMFAO" on another user's post that jokingly listed the car for sale, according to the newspaper. The post read, "Minor front end damage. Nothing serious."
"The City of Shively, and its police department, take these types of allegations very seriously, and we do not condone any behavior by our personnel that shows indifference to human life," Shively police said Monday in a statement.
Authorities at either police department have not confirmed details about the social-media posts, and attempts to reach the two officers were not successful.
But in a Facebook chat with MassLive, Lariviere, with the Springfield Police Department, apologized for "a stupid comment about people blocking streets."
"Never would I want someone to get murdered. I am not a racist and don't believe in what any of those protesters are doing," he told the news site. "I'm a good man who made a stupid comment and would just like to be left alone."