Buffalo-area prison officer suspended over meme mocking shooting

Authorities have described attack as act of racial hatred meant to kill Black people

<p>Pleazant Davis, 22, is comforted by her friend, Tasha Dixon, 35, at a memorial honouring the victims of the Tops shooting across the street from the store in Buffalo on 15 May </p>

Pleazant Davis, 22, is comforted by her friend, Tasha Dixon, 35, at a memorial honouring the victims of the Tops shooting across the street from the store in Buffalo on 15 May

The New York Corrections Department has said that it would move to fire a longtime officer who allegedly joked online about the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, denouncing a “vile posting” that “does not represent the morals and values” of its staff.

The state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) said that correction officer Gregory Foster II has been suspended without pay and that an internal investigation would “identify and discipline any staff who may have engaged” with Mr Foster’s Facebook post.

The supermarket massacre in Buffalo on Saturday left 10 people dead, and authorities have described the attack as an act of racial hatred meant to kill Black people.

Mr Foster had shared an image of the supermarket, Tops, accompanied by references to a request for “clean up” in aisles, the corrections department confirmed to The Washington Post.

“Too soon?” Mr Foster allegedly wrote in the post, which drew fury online before it was apparently deleted.

Mr Foster’s comments “are despicable, stand in violation of multiple Department rules and will not be tolerated,” DOCCS wrote in a statement. The department also said it “has engaged” a civil rights task force “for potential criminal prosecution.” It did not provide further details.

The Post was unable to reach Mr Foster or view his Facebook page. He was hired in 1997, the Corrections Department said, and worked at Attica Correctional Facility, a prison less than an hour’s drive from Buffalo.

Michael Powers, the president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, condemned “an incident on social media involving a small handful of members who shared obscene jokes related to this weekend’s horrific shooting in Buffalo.”

“It appears that some other members joined and commented on the post with ‘laugh [emoji]’,” the union’s executive board wrote to their members Tuesday, calling the incident a “sickening display of disregard for all human life.”

Predicting quick discipline from DOCCS, the union’s leadership said it would ensure that members receive “due process,” and that it does not “support the actions that brought you to this point.”

Outrage over Mr Foster’s post spread quickly on social media, with some people questioning his fitness to work with Black inmates and urging others to report him. Most of those shot on Saturday were Black, and the gunman allegedly used a weapon bearing a racial slur.

The 18-year-old accused in the attack, Payton Gendron, also left detailed plans to murder Black people, according to messages reviewed by The Post. Mr Gendron allegedly targeted the Tops grocery store because of its many African American patrons and identified two other sites in Buffalo where he could “shoot all blacks,” the messages show.

And investigators quickly found a screed in which Mr Gendron allegedly espoused “replacement theory” a racist idea that imagines a plot to replace White people.

Mr Foster’s alleged Facebook post mocking Saturday’s shooting stood in contrast to a flood of support around the country for the victims.

“White supremacy will not have the last word,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday in a visit to Buffalo.

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