A Massachusetts police officer, who sparked national outrage over his Facebook comments on an article about the deadly car attack on counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, has been fired.
Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri announced the firing Friday, telling local media that the officer, Conrad Lariviere, was determined to have "impaired the operation of the Springfield Police Department" and "discredited the department."
Lariviere drew national attention to himself and the department when he posted comments to his personal Facebook on Aug. 12 in response to an article about a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, in which a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 other people.
"Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn't block road ways," Lariviere wrote on Facebook, according to a screenshot of the comments.
When someone in the Facebook thread called Lariviere out for the comment, the officer responded: "You ignorant brat live in a fantasy land with the rest of America while I deal with the real danger."
The comments drew widespread backlash after they were noticed online, and prompted thousands of people to sign a petition calling for the officer's firing.
The day after the remarks were posted, Lariviere tried to clarify his comments, telling MassLive.com that he had been referring to how the public should not block roadways, and that he was a "good man who made a stupid comment."
Nevertheless, Barbieri ordered an internal investigation into Lariviere's conduct. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also condemned the remarks.
The department decided to fire Lariviere this week, Barbieri said Friday, after the Police Community Relations Board, a mayor-appointed group, ruled that he had violated department rules about how officers conduct themselves while off-duty.
Barbieri said that the board found no racial bias or malice in Lariviere's comments, but determined that the social media posts still hurt the reputation of the police department and its officers.
"It will take us months, if not years, to earn back the level of public trust we once had," Barbieri told local reporters.
Lariviere will appeal the decision, according to MassLive.com.
The Springfield police officers union has criticized the firing, stating that Lariviere had made the comments as a "private citizen" and "never identified himself as a Springfield police officer."
It also said Lariviere did not know the identity of the person who drove the car into the crowd in Charlottesville when he made the comments. The driver, a 20-year-old neo-Nazi named James Alex Fields, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the attack.
"At the time of the posting he did not know whether the motor vehicle which ran into a group of demonstrators was driven by an Alt Right supporter, or a counter-demonstrator, or may even have been the result of a medical event," the union said in a statement. "His point was that such disorderly behavior has serious consequences, and both sides of the dispute bore responsible for the disruptions."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Springfield Police Department for further information about the decision.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
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