Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday his agency is opening an internal affairs investigation into a jail deputy who posted a Facebook comment saying that most people who die at the hands of police deserve it.
Deputy Jay Dugmore, 49, was also sued in federal court last year by a black inmate who said in a complaint that Dugmore referred to him using several racial slurs, struck him in the head and body slammed him. Dugmore is white.
A judge threw out the lawsuit in January after the inmate, Keytric Isaac, didn’t respond to a motion to dismiss filed by the Sheriff’s Office. But Gualtieri said the allegations in the lawsuit were also a factor in his decision to open the investigation.
Gualtieri declined to comment further, pending the outcome of the investigation. Dugmore, who was hired at the Sheriff’s Office in June 2001, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Dugmore’s comments were first brought to light by the Rev. Andy Oliver, the pastor at Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg known for his progressive advocacy. Oliver said in an interview that someone sent screenshots of Dugmore’s comments to a church member, who shared them with Oliver.
“When we choose not to tell these stories or to look the other way, it comes at the expense of people like Chauvin being left on police forces, and could lead to another murder,” Oliver said, referring to former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing a murder charge in the death of George Floyd after a video showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes.
Gualtieri confirmed the comments were made by Dugmore, who appears to be talking to another Facebook user about protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death. The Times is publishing the comments without correcting a number of grammatical errors within them.
In one comment, he stated, “this country should be counting there blessings that every time a black man kills a cop that cops dont riot.”
Responding to another commenter who said there was no reason for police to kneel on Floyd’s neck, Dugmore said, “I can not and will not argue that at all. Until they OFFICIALY announce the cause of death I will hold my opinion on that matter.”
The comment that troubled Oliver the most was one in which Dugmore said, “please dont assume you know why a man kills another in this line of work. MOST die at the hands of cops because they deserved it.”
Oliver posted the screenshots on his Facebook page and emailed the information to Gualtieri on May 30. The sheriff responded within a half hour saying he would review the matter. He gave similar responses when asked about the comments by a Tampa Bay Times reporter, saying he would “look into it and get his (Dugmore’s) side of the story.”
The situation came up again on Thursday during a sheriff’s candidate forum, moderated in part by Oliver. The pastor added that he filed a formal complaint Friday through the agency website against Dugmore, as well as the sheriff, who Oliver said didn’t act quickly enough.
“If police want to improve trust,” he said Monday, “complaints of racism must be given the highest priority.”