Georgia Deputy Fired For Racist Facebook Posts Targeting Black Motorists

A white Georgia sheriff’s deputy has been terminated and another white officer abruptly resigned following an internal affairs investigation that uncovered racist and sexist messages they sent each other on Facebook, including one that described what appeared to be an effort to target black motorists.

The two officers — both former McIntosh County sheriff’s deputies — served on the department’s special traffic unit that patrols I-95 in South Georgia. The two officers sent offensive jokes back and forth through the Facebook’s messaging service and used texting shorthand “lol” to indicate laughter.

One joke referred to “colored people” and another used the word “n—— ,” according to records reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Another showed an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and denigrated his most famous speech.

“I have a dream. That one day my people will not act like animals,” posted Brant Gaither, the McIntosh deputy who was terminated July 25.

“Lol. That’ll never happen,” responded Jeremy Owens, a police officer in Darien, the county seat, who resigned the day after Gaither was fired. Owens previously worked in the sheriff’s office.

And in an apparent reference to their policing of the highways, Owens said: “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Might not get too many niggs.”

“I hope we get a few but (expletive) if we don’t,” Gaither replied.

The posts have drawn the attention of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which dispatched a lawyer to the county last week.

The center’s staff has been interviewing people in the county and is seeking information from witnesses who may have had interactions with deputies or information about the department’s policing practices. Sarah Geraghty, the center’s managing attorney for impact litigation, said the non-profit law firm is preparing a formal request for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

“This case goes deeper than two officers caught using racist language on their personal social media pages,” Geraghty said. “The messages reference an explicit intent by these law enforcement officials to ‘get’ black motorists. Our investigation to date suggests that this may be the tip of the iceberg.”

The disclosures in sparsely populated McIntosh, a county of about 14,000 residents on the Georgia coast, follow two other high profile allegations of racism in Georgia that have recently made news. A Forsysth County elementary school teacher’s aide was fired Monday after posting messages on Facebook that described first lady Michelle Obama as a gorilla. A Douglas County commissioner apologized last month after a tape of him surfaced making disparaging comments about black leaders and their fitness for office.

In McIntosh, the racist posts were discovered in July when a deputy was issued Owens’ old computer containing access to his Facebook account, according to Sheriff Stephen D. Jessup.

Jessup said the posts were deeply offensive and made him “want to throw up.”

“There was never any question of what I needed to do and I did it,” Jessup said. “I do not tolerate that in my department.”

Jessup said the local solicitor has notified him that some of the cases involving the officers may be dismissed and he supports the decision. He said he treats everyone in the community fairly and has no knowledge of his department targeting black motorists.

“There better not be and me find out about it,” Jessup said. “I wouldn’t tolerate it. If I found out about it I would fire them and prosecute them.”

Both Owens and Gaither declined to comment when contacted by phone.


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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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