LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - The fire chief at a volunteer fire station in Lancaster County has resigned after posting a racially charged comment on his personal Facebook page.
Officials at the McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department say Fire Chief Francis “Butch” Ghent had been placed on leave for two weeks starting Tuesday, April 27 and was relieved of his duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
He resigned from his position three days later on Friday, April 30.
Ghent apologized after his post circulated.
Ghent, a long-time firefighter in Lancaster County, posted on his personal account: “Dear Police, stop responding to these black neighborhoods. They will eventually kill each other and the fake news won’t have a story.”
Ghent said he apologized to city and county leaders and community members in general for his actions.
“I guess it was racially insensitive. I did not mean it that way,” Ghent told WBTV Tuesday.
Lancaster County officials found out about the post Monday, according to the Rock Hill Herald. The Lancaster County Council condemned the post as offensive, officials told the Herald.
Ghent has since deleted the post.
Ghent told WBTV he was trying to defend the police from the national news media.
Ghent on Tuesday afternoon issued a written apology to Lancaster County fire service and county officials, the Herald reported. The apology stated that Ghent was trying to jab the news media after a fatal police shooting in Ohio.
“I sincerely apologize to the people of Lancaster,” Ghent said.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis confirmed the apology came from Ghent and released the apology in full to The Herald.
According to the Herald, in the apology, Ghent asks the Black community of Lancaster County to forgive his mistake and knows he offended Black people with the post.
Here is the full apology statement from Ghent posted in the Herald:
“I would like to apologize to the black community of Lancaster and through out the country,” the statement said. “The post I made on Facebook was not meant to be an attack you but rather a jab at the news media.”
The apology further stated: “My father instilled in me that the police were to be respected and honored not matter what. The media has done everything they can to demonize them to get a story and ratings. After the police shot and killed the teenage girl trying to kill another girl the media said he went to far. But if he had let her kill the other girl then they would have said he should have done more. The police can’t win in these violent confrontations. I lost it and made that post. The wording was very inappropriate but anger blinded my judgment.
“I would also like to apologize to my family, fire department, Lancaster County Fire Service and the leaders of Lancaster County. I hope that my actions haven’t put you in harms way. I have served the residents of Lancaster County for over 40 years. I don’t see color in the residents that I serve. I help whomever calls with dignity and respect. I have many black friends and neighbors that I more than likely have offended. I am truly sorry.
“I made a mistake and am very sorry for it. I again ask for your forgiveness.”
Ghent released another letter on Friday, this time announcing his resignation.
In the letter addressed to McDonald Green Department President Mark Rallings and members of the McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department, Ghent apologized again for his actions and announced the resignation would be effective immediately.
Here is the full resignation letter sent out by Ghent:
Dear President Rallings and McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department Members,
I want to apologize to you, the members of McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department, for the recent controversy caused by my post on social media. I realize this has placed our department in a poor light and continues to cause mistrust and controversy within the community we all serve. I feel, in the best interest of trying to heal the rift caused by my actions, between this department and its community, I need to step down from serving as Chief and from any other leadership positions within the department. I hope you accept my resignation in the spirit I render it. I sincerely want the relationship with our community restored to one of trust along with their acceptance and support of our service on their behalf. My resignation will become effective immediately on the receipt of this letter by President Rallings.
I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me as your chief for so many years. It has been an honor to serve you and our community as chief. I ask you pray for reconciliation and healing in our community and hopefully this decision will be the beginning.