Alabama’s Nigel Shelby died by suicide last week, prompting an outpouring of condolences from human rights groups and celebrity allies, reports the Huffington Post.
But at least one law enforcement officer saw things a different way. An Alabama sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leaves after leaving a homophobic comment on a local media outlet’s report about the death of a gay teen, who was Black. Nigel Shelby of Huntsville committed suicide on April 18. The 15-year-old had come out to his mother as gay two years ago and had suffered depression after being subjected to anti-LGBTQ bullying at Huntsville High School, reported the Washington Post.
“He was outgoing, he was always full of joy, full of light, he was always singing, always dancing. He wanted to be a performer,” Nigel’s mother, Camika Shelby, told local news station, WAFF-TV. Though she acknowledged that her son had expressed his struggles with self-esteem, she said he gave no indication he was planning to take his own life. “I’m still shocked that my baby’s not here anymore,” she added.
News of Nigel’s death prompted an outpouring of condolences from a number of LGBTQ rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign. New Jersey Senator Core Booker, a 2020 presidential hopeful, also offered sympathy to the family on Twitter. As did pop star Justin Beiber, who urged fans to “stop the hatred please” in an Instagram post. But the local officer, identified by NBC as Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves, had a different ― and much uglier ― perspective. Commenting on a WZDX-TV Facebook post about Nigel’s death, Graves said he was “seriously offended” by the LGBTQ rights movement.
“Liberty Guns Bible Trump BBQ… That’s my kind of LGBTQ movement,” he said in the comment, which appears to have since been deleted. By Tuesday, the Madison County sheriff’s office posted a note on Facebook saying that the “involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome” of an internal investigation. In the same post, Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner expressed his condolences to Nigel’s family and friends, noting, “Bullying of any group or person in or outside of schools is unacceptable, and I welcome any and all efforts to raise awareness to bullying and bring bullying to a stop.”