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Two former Wake County sheriff’s deputies have sued Sheriff Gerald Baker, claiming he fired them for reporting a lieutenant — who happened to be a personal friend of his — for making racist and homophobic comments during a staff training.
The deputies, Steven Williamson and Alvis Speight, say they were fired one month after Baker was elected in 2018 for reporting comments made by Lt. Teddy Patrick during a training session in 2017.
During that training, Patrick allegedly told the deputies that he “didn’t believe in being gay,” did not like “gay people,” and made disparaging comments about homosexuals. The lawsuit alleges that Patrick even outed one deputy at the session for being gay, adding “words to the effect of that if a man came to his home dressed as a woman, he would not permit that man to enter his home.”
Patrick, who is Black, also reportedly said that “if white people keep killing themselves, we Black people will be the majority, instead of the minority” and told deputies present he felt uncomfortable around Muslims on airplanes, according to The News & Observer, a Raleigh-based paper.
Williamson and Speight claim they reported Patrick’s comments to a captain and to then-Chief of Operations Richard Johnson. Williamson also told then-Sheriff Donnie Harrison, who asked about what had been said in the training.
Harrison demoted Patrick for the incident. But Williamson and Speight claim that Patrick vented to his “close friend and confidant” Baker — who belongs to the same Masonic lodge — about the incident.
After Baker was elected, Williamson and Speight claim that they were called into Baker’s office and told their services were no longer needed. After the election, Patrick reportedly approached the deputy he had outed and said words to the effect of “You don’t have anything to worry about, I know who was responsible,” according to the lawsuit.
Baker also declined to swear in Johnson, the former chief of operations who had disciplined Patrick, effectively terminating him. Johnson then filed his own lawsuit, which is still pending, against Baker.
Baker disputed the deputies’ claims in 2019 after Williamson and Speight were interviewed on television, stating: “I have not retaliated against anyone.” According to WAVY, Baker said at the time that the deputies had been terminated because he didn’t have confidence in them to follow and implement his policies attempting to restructure the department.
Williamson and Speight, who have asked for a jury trial, are currently seeking damages, including lost pay and benefits, compensation for pain and suffering, and any other relief that the court sees as appropriate.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office did not respond to request for comment from Metro Weekly, either about the lawsuit or the department’s employment policies. A spokesperson previously told the News & Observer that the office had not received or read the full complaint.
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