The Tyngsborough Police Department has found that a high-ranking police official did not violate their social media policy when he made Facebook posts that advocated violence against protesters. In the aftermath of the shootings of Boston Police Officer John Moynihan and his shooter Angelo West, emotions ran high. West’s body lay on the street in Roxbury for about five hours while Officer Moynihan fought for his life with a bullet lodged behind his ear. As West’s body lay out on the street, a crowd gathered and demanded answers about the shooting. A few videos of abrasive interactions between the police and the crowd were released on YouTube (they have since been removed).
Tyngsborough police Lieutenant Shaun Wagner reacted to these videos publicly on his Facebook page in a grammatically-challenged rant (which has since been removed):
This is what Mass. Police are dealing with right now after a cop was shot in the face by a thug. This isn't a race issue cut the shit we aren't gonna stand by and put up with this for long.. Boston Strong for a reason we will deal with this differently than most...
Wagner's comment was accompanied by a link to blog post advocating violence against the crowd. The author of the post called the people in the video “assholes” and said “I’d go all John Shaft on these gutless losers.”
Wagner then “liked” several comments under his post which advocated violence.
“That fat fuck would have been a heavy bag with eye balls!” John Redican, who appears to be a Los Angeles police officer, said in reference to a large man in the crowd whose picture was in Wagner's post. Wagner “liked” this comment.
“Fuck them they all hide behind the race card! If I had it my way there would be a cleansing!” said Michael Pinard, who thankfully doesn't appear to be a police officer. Wagner “liked” this comment as well.
But Wagner is now speaking out, saying he was misunderstood. According to The Sun of Lowell:
Wagner said he had "liked" all of the roughly 30 comments on his post without reading them, which he says he often does when using Facebook.
"Almost all of my posts, anyone who comments I just like it," Wagner said. "It's sort of like thanks for reading this and commenting."
Among the other comments Wagner "liked" was one that wasn't even directed at him, which said "Hi John how are you long time. Hope all is great for your brother."
In hindsight, Wagner said he understands how someone could take issue with some of the comments that he "liked," and that he plans to change his Facebook habits.
"I'm honestly embarrassed and horrified that I'm dealing with this," Wagner said. "I'm not the least bit racist and this wasn't a call to violence."
Wagner said the point he was trying to make with the post was that race is not an issue for police, and that local police will not allow protests to spiral out of control the way they did in Ferguson, Mo., where looting and fires were reported.
According to Fox 25, the department found that Wagner did not advocate violence:
[Police Chief Richard Howe] said it was an "error in judgement yes, violation of policy no." ...
"To condone violence or condone racism or condone anything like that that would be obviously against the law or objectionable. It's absolutely 100 percent not tolerated by any police department, certainly not this department," the chief said.
Both an internal and external investigation found no violation of the social media policy, but Lt. Wagner was ordered to undergo social media counseling.
I guess we'll just have to take Wagner at his word when he says that he wasn't trying to advocate violence when he shared a blog post that explicitly advocated violence, included his own comment with what seemed to be a thinly veiled call for violence, and "liked" several other comments that explicitly called for violence.
According to the Tyngsborough Police Department's website, Wagner has been employed there since 1996 and "is an instructor in defensive tactics, firearms, use of force, and women’s self defense." Lieutenant is the third highest rank in the department, only falling below chief and deputy chief.
Wagner never responded to our request for comment and denied that we ever contacted him when he was interviewed by The Sun. While it appears he never saw the Facebook message we sent him, we did in fact contact him (see screenshot below). Despite assurances from Deputy Chief Christopher Chronopoulos that we would be contacted about the results of the investigation, the police department has not contacted us either.