State Politics

Rexburg cop accused of posting racist content online

Sgt. Ray Hermosillo
Sgt. Ray Hermosillo

A 15-year veteran with the Rexburg Police Department is reported to have reposted racist memes to his Instagram page, causing outrage among many internet users nationwide.

The posts in question were screengrabbed and widely shared by the website which is self-described as an “urban gossip-blog.” The site, based in Southern California, urged viewers to call Rexburg’s mayor and to mail in complaints. It also inadvertently directed people to complain to the Boise Police Department, more than 300 miles away.

The Rexburg Police Department was inundated starting Tuesday afternoon with phone calls, online criticism and threats. And on Wednesday it disabled its Facebook account.

Police Chief Shane Turman said an internal affairs investigation is underway into Sgt. Ray Hermosillo who is reported to have made the postings. Turman said appropriate disciplinary action will be taken at the conclusion of the investigation. For now Hermosillo remains on duty.

On Wednesday morning, Hermosillo’s social media accounts — using the handle raiderray2424 — had been deleted.

Turman confirmed the posts on the website came from Hermosillo’s Instagram account.

One of the posts quoted “hands up, don’t shoot,” the rallying cry of many Black Lives Matter protesters in reference to Michael Brown, a young black man who was shot and killed by a white officer in August 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. The response on the meme was “how about ‘pants up, don’t loot.’”

Hermosillo is reported to have reposted the meme with numerous hashtags such as “police lives matter” and “truth” as well as one hashtag too vulgar for publication.

Turman said Hermosillo is “absolutely mortified and devastated,” and realized he should not have posted the content.

“We apologize as a police department and unfortunately this represents us wrongly. We are highly professional and this officer made some bad judgment and some mistakes,” Turman said. “Quite frankly, I was extremely disappointed and angered even having to deal with this because of (his) poor judgment.”

Turman said the department began receiving calls around 3 p.m. Tuesday from people across the nation calling for Hermosillo’s resignation and making death threats.

“I’m glad we were made aware of it so we could address it. We did pull our Facebook and the reason is we were getting just inundated with these posts and hate posts,” Turman said. “It is not a race issue; it is an officer who used some poor judgment on a thing he thought was funny.”

The Post Register asked to speak to Hermosillo but Turman said the officer would not speak to news media.

One particular repost by Hermosillo drew intense criticism. It depicted several gorillas with the caption purporting to be from a black woman asking that people respect her husband’s wishes and stop showing the video of him dragging that “Lil’ hood babie” in reference to the May 28 incident where a gorilla in a Cincinnati zoo dragged a boy who fell into its enclosure.

The gorilla was shot by zoo officials to save the child. “Put some respeck on it,” the caption read.

Hermosillo shared the post with the words “Respeck it!!!!” and the hashtag “donttakeitpersonal.”

Another posts shows two white police officers wrestling a suspect, who appears to be black, to the ground. One of the officers has the suspect in a chokehold. The caption reads “Come here you (expletive). Let me hug you.” Hermosillo responded, “We are a loving family!!”

Hermosillo also responded to a post calling for black people to kill white officers and their families. Hermosillo flung several curse words at the poster and told Mississippi law enforcement officers to “Have at him,” the post said.

Turman said that comment had been misconstrued.

“That comment has been construed to say that the officer was calling for Mississippi officers to go out and shoot black people. If you read it that is not the case at all,” Turman said.

Turman said Hermosillo has otherwise had an “exemplary” record. He said investigators take these postings very seriously and that all officers should be held to a higher standard.

“When we sign up we realize we are being held to a higher standard. On and off duty we need to be above board. But we are human and we make mistakes,” Turman said. “This is a singular thing this is the only time that this has happened (at the department).”