2 more SC firefighters, 1 medic fired for Facebook posts

This comes days after a fire captain was fired for threatening to run over Black Lives Matter protesters

By Clif LeBlanc
The State

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two more Columbia firefighters were fired Wednesday in the fallout over unprofessional Facebook postings aimed at Black Lives Matter protesters who took to the streets Sunday.

Meanwhile, Richland County announced Wednesday it had fired a senior paramedic and said other ambulance service workers are under internal investigation for inappropriate comments on social media.

Fire chief Aubrey Jenkins announced the total number of firefighters who have lost their jobs is now three. The firefighters terminated Wednesday are Dave W. Proctor, a senior firefighter who was hired in October 2013, and probationary firefighter Edward Augustyn, who was hired in February, said department spokesman Brick Lewis.

Lewis said that responses to the initial posts by since-fired Capt. Jimmy Morris were threatening enough that the Eau Claire fire station, where Morris was on duty, was closed temporarily.

The department is unaware of any other inappropriate or threatening Facebook posts, so the investigation is closed unless the department learns of more such comments, Lewis said.

The spokesman said he does not know the language in the posts. However, when Jenkins said Tuesday he was investigating a second firefighter, the employee’s post said in part, “Start running people over.”

On Monday, Jenkins announced he had fired veteran captain Morris for his Facebook comments.

In that post, Morris wrote about protesters who had blocked the I-126 access into Columbia, “Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses.” A little later, Morris posted, “Public Service Announcement: If you attempt to shut down interstate, highway, etc on my way home, you best hope I’m not one of the first vehicles in line because you ass WILL get run over!”

On Tuesday, Jenkins said he was conducting another internal investigation of a firefighter who had commented on the Facebook thread. “Start running people over,” that firefighter wrote. Jenkins did not name the employee. He did not disclose that a third employee was in the cross hairs of the probe until the termination was announced Wednesday afternoon.

Despite the firing of three firefighters, Jenkins said in a prepared statement, “(T)his one poor decision should not reflect the character, dedication and professionalism of the men and women of the Columbia Fire Department.”

As for the EMS worker, Richland County spokeswoman declined a request from The State newspaper to identify the worker. She also would not say what the former employee posted or who the post was aimed at.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act requires that names and employment dates of all public employees be made public upon request.

The new county administrator, Gerald Seals, said in a statement about the firing of the ambulance worker, “The statements on social media were threatening and could be taken as the county having individuals, who because of their bias, may adjust their care – and that erodes public trust and is unacceptable.”

Copyright 2016 The State

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