An Alabama sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after leaving a homophobic comment on a local media outlet’s report about the death of a gay teen.
Nigel Shelby of Huntsville, Alabama died by suicide on April 18. The 15-year-old had come out to his mother as gay two years ago and had suffered depression after being subjected to anti-LGBTQ bullying at Huntsville High School, according to The Washington Post.
“He was outgoing, he was always full of joy, full of light, he was always singing, always dancing. He wanted to be a performer,” Nigel’s mother, Camika Shelby, told local news outlet WAFF-TV.
Though she acknowledged that her son had expressed his struggles with self-esteem, she said he gave no indication he was planning to take his own life.
“I’m still shocked that my baby’s not here anymore,” she added.
News of Nigel’s death prompted an outpouring of condolences from a number of LGBTQ rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a 2020 presidential hopeful, also offered sympathy to the family on Twitter.
As did Justin Bieber, who urged fans to “stop the hatred please” in an Instagram post on Tuesday.
But the local officer, identified by NBC as Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves, had a different ― and much uglier ― perspective. Commenting on a WZDX-TV Facebook post about Nigel’s death, Graves said he was “seriously offended” by the LGBTQ rights movement.
“Liberty Guns Bible Trump BBQ That’s my kind of LGBTQ movement,” he added in the comment, which appears to have since been deleted.
By Tuesday, the Madison County sheriff’s office posted a note on Facebook saying that the “involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome” of an internal investigation.
In the same post, Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner expressed his condolences to Nigel’s family and friends, noting, “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.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
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