Springfield police officer under investigation for remarks on Facebook

  • People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP) Ryan M. Kelly

Published: 8/15/2017 12:12:42 AM

SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield patrol officer is under investigation after posting insensitive comments on Facebook about people hit by a car at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

In screenshots sent to the Gazette and numerous local and national news outlets, Conrad Lariviere is seen commenting on an article titled “HORROR: Car Plows Into Protesters In Charlottesville; One dead, 19 injured.” Heather Heyer, 32, was killed as she peacefully protested the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, and 19 others were injured.

On Monday, city spokeswoman Marian Sullivan confirmed Lariviere made the comments and the matter will be reviewed by the Community Police Hearing Board and is being investigated internally.

Lariviere commented “Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn’t block road ways.” He also questions the person who posted the article under the comment “Damn Nazi scum!” how they know the man, later identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, was a “nazi scumbag.” Lariviere tells the person “Stop being a part of the problem.”

A message left on a number for Lariviere went unreturned Monday, though in a Facebook conversation with Masslive.com he apologized, saying he’s a “good man who made a stupid comment.

“Never would I want someone to get murdered. I am not a racist and don’t believe in what any of those protesters are doing,” he said.

On Sunday, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno released a strongly worded statement on the matter.

“I just got done issuing a statement this morning on how upsetting the tragic incidents were in Charlottesville, VA, and one of our own officers does this? Unbelievable!” Sarno stated. “There is no place for this in our society, let alone from a Springfield Police Officer ... Again, this is not an overall reflection of our men and women in blue, who serve with honor, courage and compassion. If these individuals do not learn from, understand and represent the meaning of mutual respect, my strong suggestion would be a different career path.”

Police Commissioner John Barbieri said in a statement Sunday he was disgusted and horrified by the events in Virigina. Barbieri said he received an email about the post which he stated “is purportedly from a Springfield police officer.”

“The department does have a sworn officer employed, with the same name used in the post,” Barbieri said. “I took immediate steps to initiate a prompt and thorough internal investigation. If in fact this post did originate from an officer employed with the Springfield Police Department, this matter will be reviewed by the Community Police Hearings Board for further action.”

In his statement, Sarno said he stands by Commissioner John Barbieri’s steps for a “thorough internal investigation and review by our Community Police Hearing Board to pursue the appropriate discipline against said officer.”

By Monday afternoon, the Springfield Police Department’s Facebook page was flooded with one-star reviews calling out the department for employing Lariviere. In about 15 hours, around 160 people left reviews on the department’s page.

Many of the posts call for action from the department and demand the swift firing of not only Lariviere but those who hired him. Lariviere was a member of the Springfield Police Academy's 2014 graduating class.

Community organizer Yolanda Cancel, a member of the Springfield Police and Community Relations Committee, said she was appalled when she read the post.

Cancel added that it scared her that an officer would say it was funny and those who were hit got what they deserved, especially in light of the increase in the number of protests, marches and demonstrations in the city.

“It scares me that a police officer would think that another person harming another human being, regardless of what they are doing, that this would even be funny,” she said.

Cancel said she wouldn’t go as far as firing the officer but a re-evaluation was needed before allowing the officer back on the street.

Change won’t happen overnight but Cancel said she thinks the city is headed in the right direction with Commissioner Barbieri.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.

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