The West Virginia National Guard verified on Tuesday one of its members in Putnam County had made “inflammatory” remarks on social media, regarding nationwide protests against racially charged police brutality.
The Guard is consulting its social media policy to determine how to handle the situation, according to Adjutant General James Hoyer.
“It’s my responsibility ... to make sure that when we make mistakes and do things wrong, that we take responsibility and we take corrective action,” Hoyer said during a virtual briefing on Tuesday. “We’ll be taking the appropriate disciplinary action related to that individual and any others we might find, who make inflammatory comments related to protests going on across the nation.”
The Guard later verified the member is Noah Garcelon, a police officer in Winfield, Putnam County, who resigned on Monday after his social media posts.
Per WSAZ, Garcelon posted that he’d “start firing live rounds” at protestors in Chicago, whom he referred to as a “bunch of animals.”
According to Winfield Police Chief Ron Arthur, Garcelon was hired in December, but had not been to the police academy yet.
Arthur said Garcelon did his work while paired with other officers, for on-the-job training. Arthur’s other five officers all have been to the academy, and he himself retired from the state police in May.
Protestors took to the streets across the state and country last week, and continue to do so this week, after the March death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Taylor was a medical worker who died after police shot her in her own apartment. Floyd was a security guard and bouncer who died of asphyxia, after an officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Garcelon’s resignation comes as hundreds of protestors rallied and Marched in Morgantown Tuesday afternoon. Several other events in the Mountain State were held over the weekend. To Arthur’s knowledge, the roughly 2,000-person town of Winfield has not hosted any demonstrations.
Protests are slated to continue throughout the week in Princeton, Bluefield, Charleston and others. So far, most events have been peaceful.
In Minneapolis, the state National Guard has been deployed to aid local law enforcement with enforcing curfews and interacting with protestors, much of which has involved tear gas and non-lethal firings. Hoyer and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday they can’t foresee the guard getting involved here, unless there’s violence or damage to local buildings and businesses.
Plans from the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in addition to state health officials, to test all prisoners and correctional staff remain unclear, even after the governor said last week everyone in incarceration would soon be tested.
Only a little more than 140 people have been tested between the state’s 10 jails and 10 out of its 11 prisons. That excludes the Huttonsville Correctional Center, a prison where all of more than 1,000 prisoners and staff were tested. As of Monday afternoon, there were 119 positive prisoners at Huttonsville, eight positive employees and no other documented cases in the DCR.
There are roughly 9,300 people in the state-run prisons and jails.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.