These comments have not been edited and have been kept the way they were originally posted.
WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — In a string of comments made on its Facebook page early Friday morning, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office responded to people seemingly criticizing them for the way that a man died in their custody in January.
“Stop being ignorant with no facts.”
This comment was posted at approximately 12:47 a.m. Friday under a post the department had made on Feb. 3 regarding its Little Miss Sheriff program. There was no context to the comment.
After their initial comment, people began responding to the department, referencing the controversy involving Anthony “Tony” Mitchell, a man who died Jan. 27 while in police custody. Initially, the department claimed that Mitchell was “alert and conscious” when he was taken from the jail to a nearby hospital, but leaked surveillance video showed Mitchell being carried out by two deputies into a squad car.
Recently, Mitchell’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department, accusing them of allegedly keeping Mitchell in the jail’s freezer or frigid environment at one point. Lawyers for the department have denied the claims.
“after weeks of silence… THIS is how you respond?” Veronica Kayle wrote on Facebook.
“so you block comments sections for weeks then up and call everyone ignorant at 1a.m.? Chance Armstrong responded.
The department was quick to respond to Armstrong on Facebook, posting a response within two minutes at 12:53 a.m.
“like we want to hear every negative comment from people that don’t possess the truth,” the department wrote.
“very professional of you!” Armstrong responded.
From there, the department went on the offensive, posting more responses.
“we try to help people always have and baseless claims from lawyers that have no idea what happens is not truth,” the department wrote.
The department continued.
“we want people to live and thrive why didn’t his family get him help for years if they felt he was with mental illness until they could profit from it,” the department wrote.
“those videos ain’t baseless,” he wrote. “The fact the man wasn’t in the hospital from the start was the first mistake.”
The department then fired back.
“every lawyer and investigator have the videos no freezer was ever involved how bout see what the investigation says instead of making assumptions,” the department wrote.
The WCSO faced immediate backlash with many people taking to Facebook to criticize their response to Mitchell’s death.
“You guys are not the good guys,” Shawn Randall Thomas wrote. “You are cowards that hide behind the shield. You are inherently corrupt and utterly incompetent. That you have proven.”
It is not known who was posting on the WCSO’s behalf on Facebook.
UPDATE: 1:50 p.m.
Public information officer TJ Armstrong later sent out the following statement on behalf of Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith:
“This was not an official statement from my office. The comment was made by an admin on the departmental Facebook page who has since been removed. This has been a stressful time for everyone involved with death threats and promises of violence being made to employees across various divisions within our department and their families, including their children. While we expect our employees to conduct themselves in a manner that rises above that negativity, our employees are still human and everyone processes stress differently. The time will come for my office to make a formal statement, and I’m looking forward to being able to make that statement.”
If you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support, call the the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.