CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s first Black sheriff final yr fired a white deputy who’s accused of tormenting a Black subordinate for years with racist name-calling that led him to stop, a brand new federal lawsuit reveals.
Albany County Patrol Sgt. Christian Handley as soon as drove previous and yelled a profanity and the N-word at Cpl. Jamin Johnson whereas Johnson and his spouse and youngsters had been strolling out of their residence, in response to one instance of racism alleged within the discrimination lawsuit filed final week.
“Mr. Handley later apologized for having not realized that Mr. Johnson’s family was present, as if his vile racism was otherwise acceptable,” the lawsuit says.
Johnson is suing Handley, searching for a jury trial if vital and damages for the years of racism that he says led as much as his determination to stop in 2017.
The allegations put a brand new highlight on the sheriff’s workplace in Laramie, the Albany County seat identified for the homicide of homosexual University of Wyoming pupil Matthew Shepard in 1998, against the law that drew unprecedented consideration to LGBTQ rights and hate crimes. The racism allegations come after Sheriff Aaron Appelhans’ appointment as Wyoming’s first Black sheriff within the wake of an outcry in Laramie over a deputy’s 2018 taking pictures of an unarmed man who had been recognized with schizoaffective dysfunction.
Handley used racial slurs to refer not solely to Johnson however to Black residents he got here in touch with on the job, together with 4 University of Wyoming college students who had been in a automobile he as soon as pulled over, in response to Johnson’s lawsuit in opposition to Handley, filed Jan. 18 in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The swimsuit did not present the explanation for the cease.
Handley declined to remark when reached by cellphone and requested concerning the lawsuit Monday.
The alleged racism in opposition to Johnson occurred greater than three years earlier than Appelhans took workplace in late 2020, and Appelhans stated Monday he wasn’t conscious of it till shortly after beginning the job. He stated he has made modifications previously yr to make sure that all insurance policies are adopted, to maneuver inner investigations out of the sheriff’s workplace to the county human assets workplace, and to personally log off on all hires, promotions and dismissals.
“It’s just disappointing to learn how long it had been going on prior to my arrival,” Appelhans stated. “I’ll always continue to make sure that our department is not only welcoming to those who want to work in our department but welcoming to those in our community as well.”
Besides utilizing racial epithets, Handley’s years of taunts in opposition to Johnson included telling him that being intimate with a Black lady could be degrading, in response to the lawsuit.
An inner evaluate two months after Appelhans took workplace discovered that regardless of Handley’s “widespread and well-known” racism, Handley was emboldened by getting preferential treatment for promotions ahead of the more-experienced Johnson, the lawsuit alleges.
Appelhans fired Handley after the investigation in early 2021, according to the lawsuit.
Appelhans’ predecessor from the time of the allegations, former Sheriff Dave O’Malley also declined to comment Monday. The lawsuit mentions O’Malley but does not accuse him of wrongdoing.
Because O’Malley was a Democrat, his 2020 retirement allowed local Democratic officials to nominate Appelhans and two other finalists to complete his elected term, which ends in early 2023.
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 selections, the lawsuit claims.
Soon after being promoted to patrol sergeant, Handley wrote a efficiency evaluate accusing Johnson of participating in a number of types of misconduct over the earlier yr, which meant that Handley was taking notes on Johnson and “decided to unleash pent-up racism” after turning into his boss, in response to the lawsuit.
Handley additionally wrote “several other sham disciplinary actions” in opposition to Johnson, “all designed to force his resignation,” alleges the lawsuit.
The lawsuit calls Handley’s claims “totally unsubstantiated,” but says he nonetheless persuaded O’Malley to issue an ultimatum to Johnson: Either accept a suspension and demotion to patrol deputy, or leave the sheriff’s office. Johnson soon resigned.
Appelhans’ appointment as Wyoming’s first Black sheriff came two years after Cpl. Derek Colling killed an unarmed man after a traffic stop. A grand jury found Colling didn’t commit involuntary manslaughter, though he resigned last year. A wrongful death lawsuit against the county in that case is still pending.
Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver