In the aftermath of 15-year-old Nigel Shelby, who identified as gay, taking his own life, a Madison County deputy has been placed on administrative leave in response to homophobic comments he made on social media.
Newsweek reports that under an article published on Facebook by media outlet WZDX, which detailed fundraisers and local efforts to generate awareness about bullying faced by the LGBTQ community, an account linked to deputy Jeff Graves published the following incendiary response:
“Liberty. Guns. Bible. Trump. BBQ. That’s my kind of LGBTQ. I’m seriously offended that there is such a thing such 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.”
He later defended his stance as “freedom of speech.”
The deputy’s alleged posts have since been deleted, but the Madison County Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement confirming disciplinary action was taken against Deputy Graves, per WAFF 48:
“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 high standard, and the public can be assured that a thorough and complete audit will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken.
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 it’s 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.
On April 18, Shelby took his own life, allegedly due to persistent bullying about his sexuality, triggering an outpouring of condolences on social media from celebrities and sympathizers alike.
Local sheriff Kevin Turner confirmed that Shelby’s “young life was lost to suicide last week” and offered his own condolences to the family and friends of the beloved 9th grader.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Huntsville High School principal Aaron King shared his own thoughts on the tragedy in a letter that was released on Saturday.
“Thoughts and prayers are with Nigel’s family. Parents, please talk to your students about Nigel’s death,” he wrote. “Know and be aware of changes in your child. Talk to them about what they see, words they speak and actions they can take to make a difference. We must be better.”
Deputy Graves has declined comment until the internal investigation has concluded.
If you are experiencing suicidal ideations, 24-hour, confidential help is available every day for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please call 1-800-273-8255.