Dave Mistich Published

W.Va. Officials Announce Suspensions Over Photograph Of Corrections Trainees Giving Nazi Salute


Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 11:18 p.m. 

The West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety is opening an investigation into an offensive photo depicting state corrections trainees giving a well-recognized Nazi hand signal. State officials announced that suspsensions related to the photo have taken place.

In a photo released Thursday, 31 members of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class #18 are seated in rows. Nearly all of them are giving a Nazi salute. All of faces in the photo have been blurred. 

According to a caption, the class was conducted Oct. 21 through Nov. 27.

The photo is also captioned “Hail Byrd!” A Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman said the caption refers to a training instructor for the class.

In a statement, Gov. Jim Justice says he condemns the photo. The governor also says he has directed DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy to investigate the incident and fire all of those involved in the conduct. 

Secretary Sandy issued a letter Thursday calling the photo “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.”  Sandy also announced that suspensions related to the photo have taken place.

Repeated requests for additional information — including context surrounding the taking of the photo, a list of names involved and a copy of the original photo — were not returned as of late Thursday night. 

In a Twitter thread, Rabbi Victor Urecki of the B’nai Jacob Synagogue said some faith leaders in Charleston were notified earlier this week about the photo. He said those leaders “were asked to come, see the photo before it was released, and were given a breifing of what was known at the time about this ugly situation.”

This is a developing story and may be updated.