Lexington County, SC – A former Lexington County sheriff’s deputy, who was permanently disabled when he was struck by a suspect’s vehicle on duty, has sued his former department after the sheriff blocked him on Facebook.
Former Lexington County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Eddie Richardson was injured while responding to a burglary call on Aug. 1, 2016, The State reported.
Deputy Richardson was struck at the knees by the suspect’s vehicle, which lacked an actual bumper.
He was thrown up and over the driver’s side of the car and sustained serious injuries to his knees, spine, and hip.
The now-medically-retired deputy told The State he saw the suspect gunning his engine to try and run him down again, so he opened fire.
Deputy Richardson fatally shot 43-year-old Bryan Byrd, WIS reported.
The shooting was ruled justified after a review by the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), The State reported.
The injuries Richardson sustained made it nearly impossible for the former deputy to sit for long periods, or to walk without a cane.
Richardson told The State that the pain in his right leg, hip, and lower back make it “a struggle to do anything other than breathe, and there are days when that’s tough.”
He was medically retired because he could no longer serve in a law enforcement capacity, and the sheriff’s department stopped paying for his health insurance, The State reported.
Richardson could not afford retired disabled health insurance, so Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon asked the county council to make an exception for a former deputy injured while serving the community.
But the Lexington County Council decided in a closed-door meeting on Oct. 10, 2017 that they would not grant health coverage as if Richardson were still working for the sheriff’s department, The State reported.
They compared him to other medically-retired county employees who were not risking their lives when they were hurt.
Richardson has already had three surgeries related to the injuries and is scheduled for yet another. His wife, Amanda Richardson, had to quit her job to provide full-time care to her husband.
Over time, the former deputy became involved with The Wounded Blue, a non-profit founded by Blue Lives Matter's National Spokesman, Randy Sutton.
Then, in October 2017, Richardson was on Facebook when he saw an ad that offered a $500 signing bonus for new deputies in Lexington County on the sheriff’s department’s official Facebook page.
“That’s a great idea. But it would be a good idea to instead of doing bonuses, put the money into a fund to take care of wounded officers,” Richardson commented beneath the ad, according to The State.
His lawsuit against the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department claimed that his post was deleted, and he was blocked from commenting on the department’s Facebook page.
Amanda Richardson commented shortly thereafter that the sheriff’s department shouldn’t be blocking comments, especially from a wounded deputy, and the sheriff’s office took down her comment, too.
Then they blocked her from making further comments on the page just as they had her husband.
The Richardsons’ lawsuit also alleged that Sheriff Koon and his department “permit retaliation against individuals” for exercising free speech and did not “properly” investigate complaints by citizens who felt they were targets of retaliation after they spoke up, according to The State.
The suit calls for an injunction barring the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department from blocking users on its page.
The Richardsons are also suing for damages, reasonable fees and costs, and a declaration that Sheriff Koon and the sheriff’s department acted in a manner that violated the Constitution, The State reported.
Several courts have recently ruled that public entities cannot block users on Facebook.
The most famous ruling was in May of 2018 when a federal judge ruled that President Donald Trump could not block users from his Twitter account, according to The Hill.
U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, in the Southern District of New York, said the President’s Twitter account is a “public forum.”
Her ruling said President Trump blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constituted viewpoint discrimination and violated the First Amendment, The Hill reported.
Legal experts said that ruling would be critical in defining how government agencies interacted with citizens and managed free speech in the digital age.
“The court's thorough decision recognizes that the President's use of @realDonaldTrump on Twitter makes it the type of public forum in which the government may not, under the First Amendment, silence its critics,” said Josh Geltzer, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, in a written statement, according to The Hill.
While the lawsuit makes its way through the courts, Richardson continues his work with The Wounded Blue, who just launched a documentary on Amazon.
If you would like to learn more about The Wounded Blue, you can visit their website.