Wild racist text messages shared between Kansas cops who were involved in police-led shootings were leaked to a local newspaper – and some of the officers appeared to get away largely unscathed for their offensive conversations.
Anonymous sources familiar with department-wide investigations leaked the racist messages to The Wichita Eagle.
A post reportedly shared in the group by a white Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy showed a meme of cartoon character Elmer Fudd with a shotgun saying, “Be very, very quiet, I’m hunting [racial slur].”
the Eagle reports that the group messages were originally discovered by department heads during a domestic violence investigation of another Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy, Sgt. Justin Maxfield, who was arrested in April 2021 for allegedly stalking his ex-girlfriend. Maxfield was suspended without pay the same day he was arrested; he was later found guilty and placed on probation.
Before stepping down in 2021, he was known to have shared racist, homophobic and sexist messages with other MPs and encouraged them to do the same. the Eagle reports that in a message, Maxfield allegedly shared an image of the murder of George Floyd with the caption: “You tell me [racial slur] couldn’t breathe? Arrows were pointing to Floyd’s lips and nose, a source told the Eagle.
In another message to the group, Maxfield reportedly applauded his fellow SWAT team members for “the permanent de-escalation[ing] people who needed permanent de-escalation.
According to Eagle, three cops responded positively to Maxfield’s message. One of them, Wichita police officer Lee Froese, was involved in fatal shootings in 2012 and 2020, including a black man who was shot five times in the back while fleeing a shooting in a bar. the Eagle states that Froese allegedly responded to Maxfield’s message by saying that Maxfield had also “defused people who needed it”. After the messages surfaced, the three cops were reportedly dragged into their actions; two are still with Wichita Police while Froese left voluntarily in 2021, the Eagle reports.
Another Wichita officer, Sgt. Jamie Crouch, is accused of sharing another meme of the murder of George Floyd, this time showing Floyd pinned to the ground by an officer kneeling on his neck. However, instead of an officer, a naked black man was photographed sitting on Floyd’s head. Crouch was reprimanded under the department’s bad judgment policy but was not suspended, the Eagle reported. Crouch did not respond to the Eagle requesting comment, but in notes provided to the city’s Civil Review Board under a pseudonym, he said he sent the photo “to ease the situation and de-stress SWAT team members.” Crouch was identified by the Eagle sources.
Crouch has a history with civilian shootings. According to Eagle, he critically shot a 17-year-old black youth he believed was wanted in a double homicide. However, the teenager was not the suspect sought by the police. In a report provided by the Wichita Citizen’s Review Board, which helps local police raise community awareness, Crouch said he had no “bias toward any particular group.” He is still employed by the Wichita Police Department.
The lyrics don’t stop there. Another Sedgwick County MP reportedly sent a meme to the group chat mocking the apparent discovery of a noose in Black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage. The meme showed cone-shaped cups with the caption “Breaking news: KKK hoods found next to water cooler in Bubba Wallace’s garage.” The officer was later suspended with pay and retired in September.
the Eagle The report showed a big difference in how the sheriff’s department and the police department handled the discovery of the messages.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, who called the posts a “big deal”, told The Daily Beast that three deputies had been fired and could be removed if they engaged in deception or racial bias.
“By law, I had to notify the U.S. Attorney’s office because it’s potential information against these deputies, as well as the district attorney because it’s potential impeachment material,” he said. .
After officers were fired, he added, their information was passed to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, a state organization that handles officer licensing.
“They are doing a separate investigation to determine whether or not their licenses will be revoked. Then they can never be cops again,” he said.
In contrast, Wichita police did not respond to the Eagle multiple requests for comment and it seems the heaviest punishment was not meted out for despicable racism but for insulting the boss. Sources told the newspaper that of the 11 Wichita officers investigated for the posts, only one was suspended for several days for calling then-chief Gordon Ramsay “a tool”. This officer later retired after nearly 30 years with the department.
The Wichita Police Department’s communications office did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Monday.