The first Black sheriff in the history of Wyoming has had enough.
Aaron Appelhans, who was hired in February 2021, fired a White deputy who is being accused of antagonizing a former Black subordinate for years with racist insults and name-calling that eventually led him to quit, according to the Associated Press.
The White deputy is former Albany County Patrol Sergeant Christian Handley and is being sued by Corporal Jamin Johnson, who quit in 2017 after years of dealing with alleged racist remarks from Handley.
According to the Associated Press, there was an alleged incident where Handley was driving past Johnson’s home and as Johnson was leaving his house with his wife and kids, Handley yelled out an obscenity and the N-word.
The lawsuit says that Handley later apologized for the incident because he didn’t realize his family was there.
Even if his family wasn’t there, the alleged racist comments are still racist, doesn’t matter if Johnson’s family was there or not.
Johnson is suing Handley and is seeking damages for the years of racism he allegedly had to deal with.
From the Associated Press:
The allegations put a new spotlight on the sheriff’s office in Laramie, the Albany County seat known for the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998, a crime that drew unprecedented attention to LGBTQ rights and hate crimes. The racism allegations come after Aaron Appelhans’ appointment as Wyoming’s first Black sheriff in the wake of an outcry in Laramie over a deputy’s 2018 shooting of an unarmed man who had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
Handley used racial slurs to refer not only to Johnson but to Black citizens he came in contact with on the job, including four University of Wyoming students who were in a vehicle he once pulled over, according to Johnson’s lawsuit against Handley, filed Jan. 18 in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The suit didn’t provide the reason for the stop.
Handley declined to comment when reached by phone and asked about the lawsuit Monday.
All of the alleged racist incidents against Johnson took place years before Appelhans was appointed the sheriff of Albany County, who was not aware of what was going on until shortly after he was brought on. But he has made some changes to ensure incidents like this do not occur again, according to the Associated Press.
Some of those changes include moving internal investigations from the sheriff’s office to the Albany County human resources office and Sheriff Appelhans has to sign off on every hire, promotion and dismissal.
According to the Associated Press, Handley’s racial insults went much farther than just calling Johnson the N-word. Allegedly, Handley told Johnson that being intimate with a Black woman would be degrading.
Internal investigations found that Handley’s racism was well-known and would lead to him getting promotions and preferential treatment over Johnson, who was more experienced.
I guess Handley was part of the little ole boys club and Johnson was too Black to join.
More from the Associated Press:
Handley began subjecting Johnson to “overt and abhorrent racism” when they were both deputies from 2011 to 2014 and Johnson was the department’s only Black officer, the lawsuit alleges.
Handley nonetheless climbed the ranks in the sheriff’s office, becoming part of the department’s “old boys’ club” and a “trusted voice” in personnel decisions, the lawsuit claims.
Soon after being promoted to patrol sergeant, Handley wrote a performance review accusing Johnson of engaging in several forms of misconduct over the previous year, which meant that Handley was taking notes on Johnson and “decided to unleash pent-up racism” after becoming his boss, according to the lawsuit.
Handley also wrote “several other sham disciplinary actions” against Johnson, “all designed to force his resignation,” alleges the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Handley’s alleged claims against Johnson were not supported by evidence but Handley was able to persuade Applelhans’ predecessor, Sheriff Dave O’Malley, to give an ultimatum to Johnson to either accept a suspension or a demotion, Johnson chose the latter and soon resigned.
Costing the man his job? That is just foul. If these allegations are found to be true, Johnson needs all of the compensation for the years of torment he went through.