AUXVASSE, Mo. — Auxvasse Police Chief Kevin Suedmeyer has been placed on administrative leave after inflammatory Facebook posts from him surfaced.
"Want to know something that's fairly important," reads one post from May 31. "If your dumb a** stands in the roadway blocking vehicular traffic — you deserve to be run over. That will help cleanup the gene pool. How stupid must you be."
One of his Facebook friends, Callaway County Western District Commissioner candidate Will Shackelford, responded, "Have you come across any road blocks?"
"Nope (and) I certainly won't stop for them — though if they insist — I'll identify myself — they can back down or get shot I am bull**** intolerant," Suedmeyer replied.
In another post June 2, he wrote: "Corona virus coming to rioters everywhere Darwin — work your magic Time to ramp up the funeral industry."
Auxvasse South Ward Alderman Bret Barnes was among Suedmeyer's friends who hit "like" on the post.
Other posts are memes created by other Facebook users. One, shared June 1, is divided into two halves. At the top is a picture of a black man speaking into a microphone, captioned: "Rioter: 'We're gonna start coming to the suburbs Ain't nothing left here.'" Below is a photo of two white men wearing ghillie suits and holding firearms, captioned, "The boys and I patiently waiting in the suburbs."
The posts, among others similar in tone, were shared on Suedmeyer's personal page. The page was open to public viewing until it vanished at about 11:40 a.m. Thursday — shortly after the Fulton Sun called the city in an attempt to contact Suedmeyer. Multiple attempts to reach Suedmeyer for comment failed.
Asked for comment Friday morning, Auxvasse Mayor Tom Henage responded with a brief news release.
"The police chief for the City of Auxvasse has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation," Henage wrote. "Racism is not condoned or tolerated by the City of Auxvasse."
During a phone call shortly afterward, Henage was asked if his statement meant he was labeling Suedmeyer's posts as racist.
"No," he said.
He then directed all other questions to City Attorney Tom Riley, who on Friday evening, said he was unable to comment without further consultation with Henage. Riley did not hear back from Henage after attempting to reach him Friday, Riley said Saturday.
"This is the only thing you're going to get out of me," Henage added. "I've seen too much of the news perverting what's said."
Three of four Auxvasse aldermen did not respond to emailed requests for comment Saturday.
"I have been asked to defer all questions regarding this matter to Mayor Tom Henage," North Ward alderperson Danielle Huddleston said.
Henage did not not respond to calls or emails Saturday requesting further updates.
One Auxvasse resident who helped organize a recent Black Lives Matter protest in Fulton said she was "shocked" by the posts.
"It's not something I expect out of a police chief, someone we're supposed to look toward for safety and protection, especially in these times," Aleigha Turner said Friday. "I was very shocked, but also I understand that there's definitely a bigger racist population than we like to think. I was shocked but also not at the same time."
The above-mentioned posts were made against the backdrop of international protests against racism and brutality in policing. The protests began after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black Minneapolis resident who died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
"I'm definitely not against all cops," Turner added. "Every single profession has good and bad employees. But I think we can't have good cops until good cops start policing bad cops. (Until then) there's no way for us to come together and say 'hey, I'm going to the police about this, I have trust in the police.'"
Turner said she plans to contact Henage and Auxvasse's Board of Alderman to ask for Suedmeyer's removal. She hopes to sit down with city officials to "see how we can change" the situation for the better.
"I'll be letting them know he violated his oath of office to uphold the community, the citizens he serves and the badge," Turner said. "This can't be tolerated, you know."
The Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union condemned Suedmeyer's posts in an emailed statement Friday.
Sara Baker, ACLU of Missouri's policy director, noted the First Amendment and the right to protest — especially when the government inflicts harm on citizens — helps set America apart from authoritarian states.
"The police chief sets the tone for the entire department, and they must protect the right to assemble for all citizens," Baker wrote. "It is inappropriate for an officer of the law to attempt to chill speech with violent threats. The posts of the Auxvasse police chief are a fitting example of why so many Americans have taken to the streets in support of demanding law enforcement confront its history of discriminatory practices against the black and brown citizens they are sworn to protect."
The ACLU emailed Henage on Friday, calling on him to "keep people safe and uphold (the) constitutional rights" of protesters.