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Photo leads to removal

CHARLESTON — A photo of a Gilmer County volunteer fire chief and a member of the State Fire Commission advocating for protesters to be run over was the latest incident this week of insensitivity in the wake of the death of a black man in Minneapolis and the demonstrations that have followed.

In a press release Thursday night, Gov. Jim Justice said Martin Hess, the fire chief for the Gilmer County Volunteer Fire Department, was removed as a member of the West Virginia State Fire Commission.

According to Justice, several social media posts by Hess were brought to Justice’s attention that the governor said were “inappropriate and inflammatory.”

“My office has received information referencing various social media posts you have made which are inappropriate,” Justice said in a letter to Hess notifying him of his removal from the commission. “I will not tolerate behavior like this from anyone representing the state of West Virginia.”

One of those social media posts showed Hess wearing a T-shirt that read “All Lives Splatter. Nobody Cares About Your Protest. Keep Your a** Out of the Road.”

That post was deleted from Hess’ Facebook page and he later posted an apology.

“Due to my post I have upset a lot of people and I am sorry for that,” Hess wrote. “By all means I did not mean (to) upset anyone.”

Hess’ removal follows a similar incident in Putnam County earlier this week. According to the Associated Press, Noah Garcelon resigned from the Winfield Police Department after social media posts came to light. According to the now-deleted social media posts screen grabbed by WSAZ-TV, Garcelon posted on his Facebook page that he would “start firing live rounds” at protesters and that protesters were a “bunch of animals.”

In another post, Garcelon said he would “see how many I can run over before my car breaks down.” Garcelon also is under investigation by the West Virginia National Guard.

“We’ll be taking the appropriate disciplinary action related to that individual or any others who make inflammatory comments related to protests going on across the nation,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, during the state’s daily coronavirus briefing earlier this week.

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