Dave Mistich Published

Logs Detail Reported Threats Against West Virginia Corrections Employees Over Nazi Salute Photo


According to incident logs compiled by West Virginia officials, corrections employees received threats after last month’s release of a blurred photo showing a training class giving an apparent Nazi salute. But not all of the logged incidents show threats of violence against corrections officers. 

On Dec. 5, state officials first released a redacted photo of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class #18. In that photo, many of the cadets are shown giving an apparent Nazi salute.

At a Dec. 6 news conference, Gov. Justice and Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Sec. Jeff Sandy said they would not yet release an unredacted version of the photo or the identities of those involved because of threats made against corrections staff.

A log of incidents related to the photo, provided to West Virginia Public Broadcasting as part of a public records request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, documents phone calls made to the training academy and other corrections facilities, social media posts and verbal threats of violence made toward corrections staff. The log shows 13 separate incidents were reported between Dec. 5 and Dec. 9 but does not indicate to whom they were directed.

In one incident, officers at the St. Marys Correctional Center notified their superintendent of apparent threats on Dec. 6. The unnamed officers “expressed concerns about getting harsh comments on social media, even death threats,” according to the incident log. 

Another incident, documented on Dec. 7, indicates a person called the DCR Ops Center and stated “watch your backs at 1100.”

Two other incidents were reported on Dec. 8 by employees of the Central Regional Jail who received text messages that read: “We are coming for you.”

Other documented incidents do not provide specific threats of violence but show attempts to identify the cadets or indicate denouncements of white supremacy.

One such incident documented as a threat pointed to an effort by progressive journalist Shaun King and others to identify cadets on social media.

“While reviewing ‘social media privacy,’ [NAME REDACTED] came across social media accounts (Twitter) shaming the academy class #18. The Twitter accounts are @shaunking and @dickandsharon. Shaun King (Journalist) has photos of those who were in the class without the blurred faces, posted it on social media and other (sic) posted the cadet names in the comment section,” reads the description of one incident. 

King – who has more than a million Twitter followers – is a writer and activist who focuses on issues related to race and social justice. In 2019, King founded The North Star, an online publication named after the 19th century anti-slavery newspaper published by abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

In a column labeled “Notes” under the same incident, state officials documented that there was “an active movement to find DCR employee social media accounts pertaining to academy class #18.” 

Another documented incident included a Dec. 6 phone call to the Corrections Academy. Logs show an academy employee received a call from “a male, who was irate.” The log goes on to note that the man “called DCR obscene names.”

“You all need to fire those racist ass cops. We defeated Nazism in the forties. What the f*** are they doing,” the man said, according to the log. 

Last week, Gov. Jim Justice said he approved the firing of the entire cadet class, as well as others involved in the training program. State officials have not yet released an unredacted version of the photo or the identities of those involved.

A spokesman for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety did not immediately respond to a request for additional information about how the threats were logged.