King County Sheriff’s deputy fired over offensive social media posts about protesters

Feb 12, 2021, 12:14 PM
Social media posts, Summer Taylor vigil...
Protesters hold a vigil to honor Summer Taylor, who died after they were hit by a car during a protest, on July 5, 2020, in Seattle. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht announced Friday that she has terminated the employment of Deputy Mike Brown over a series of offensive social media posts made over the summer of 2020.

Sheriff Johanknecht cited a series of posts Brown made to his personal Facebook between June and July 2020, ranging from a comment appended to a video of police officers knocking a Black woman to the ground, stating “when in doubt… Knock em out,” to a separate comment referencing the murder of Lorenzo Anderson in the CHOP, where he referred to Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park as “Lil Renz’s Last Stand Park.”

What drew the most headlines, though, was a graphic Brown displayed on his Facebook reading, “All Lives Splatter,” depicting people being run over by a car. That post surfaced on the same day Seattle protester Summer Taylor was killed after a man drove his vehicle through a crowd of demonstrators on I-5.

Rally, vigil held Wednesday in memory of slain Seattle protester

According to Johanknecht, Brown claimed he made that post to bring up “concerns about the risks of pedestrians on freeways,” and that he did not intend to associate protesters on I-5 with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The play on the phrases is so obvious I do not find you credible on this point,” Johanknecht countered in a summary report she sent to Brown on Wednesday. “This post exhibits callous disregard for life and the racial inequity message of the Black Lives Matter movement in particular.”

In terminating Brown’s employment with the King County Sheriff’s Office, Johanknecht ruled that Brown violated numerous departmental policies, upholding allegations of discrimination and incivility, conduct unbecoming, and violating performance standards, while compromising the trust of the public in local law enforcement.

“It is necessary that I also consider your ability to be effective as a law enforcement officer, given the ample material now available to discredit and undermine you and your work for this Office,” she outlined. “The damage to your integrity and ability to continue to serve as a law enforcement officer cannot be repaired.”

King County Sheriff’s Deputy placed on leave for social media posts

The sheriff also pointed to a longer history of sustained violations for criminal conduct and conduct unbecoming regarding a “series of incidents,” including one in 2013, where Brown was “suspected of hit and run with property damage to a rockery” in Chelan County, shortly after being approached for being suspected of driving under the influence.

“When contacted by Chelan law enforcement you appeared impaired and your communications were extremely unprofessional, reflecting poorly on the agency,” Johanknecht noted.

Brown later received a one-day suspension for that incident.

Brown had been on leave since July 2020 pending an investigation into his social media posts. His termination was effective as of Thursday, Feb. 11, although he is “entitled to challenge his termination through a union grievance procedure.”

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King County Sheriff’s deputy fired over offensive social media posts about protesters