A Georgia sheriff’s deputy was fired and another abruptly resigned after an investigation revealed their racist and sexist Facebook messages — which showed they apparently targeted black drivers for traffic stops.
The two deputies, identified as Brant Gaither and Jeremy Owens, served on a special traffic unit on the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department, where they patrolled Interstate 95 between Savannah and Brunswick, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Their Facebook messages showed the deputies mocking the most famous speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
“I have a dream. That one day my people will not act like animals,” Gaither posted, while Owens replied, “Lol. That’ll never happen.”
At least one post suggested they racially profiled black drivers, whom they referred to using racial slurs: “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow,” Owens wrote. “Might not get too many niggs.”
They also joked about a pregnancy test involving fried chicken and mocked victims of domestic violence, the newspaper reported.
The Southern Center for Human Rights sent a lawyer last week to McIntosh County, where they interviewed residents and witnesses who might have interacted with the deputies or have other information about policing practices by the sheriff’s department.
Their investigation “suggests this may be the tip of the iceberg,” said an attorney with the civil rights group.
Gaither was fired July 25, and Owens resigned the following day.
The racist messages were discovered when another deputy was issued Owens’ old computer, which was still linked to his Facebook account.
The deputy showed the communications to Sheriff Stephen Jessup, who said the posts made him “want to throw up.”
Jessup moved quickly to get rid of the deputies, saying their conduct was unacceptable.
“There is no joke about something like that — period,” Jessup told the newspaper. “It’s total racism.”
Prosecutors said some of the cases involving the pair, who worked together until December, could be dismissed, and the sheriff supports that decision.
Owens, who now works as a police officer in Darien, declined to comment, but Gaither insisted just before he was fired that the posts weren’t serious — and that they weren’t isolated incidents.
“It was just a joke, we all do it,” Gaither said, according to an internal investigation.
Gaither was unable to provide any credible evidence that other deputies engaged in similar behavior, according to the internal investigation.
McIntosh County is the setting for the 1991 nonfiction book, “Praying for Sheetrock,” by Melissa Fay Greene, who tells the story of a notorious white sheriff who harassed black residents into the 1970s.
Jessup is facing a re-election challenge from Charles Jones, the black former sheriff he defeated in 2008.