‘I want to apologize’: Volunteer fire chief resigns after racially charged social media post

LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — A volunteer fire chief in Lancaster County announced his resignation Friday after receiving criticism for an offensive, racially charged post he made on Facebook.

The Facebook post from Butch Ghent read:

“Dear police, Stop responding to these Black neighborhoods. They will eventually kill each other, and the fake news won’t have a story.”

Ghent was the chief at the McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department, south of Lancaster.

Ghent’s resignation letter:

“Dear President (Mark) Rallings and McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department members,

“I want to apologize to you, the members of McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department, for the recent controversy caused by my post on social media.

“I realize this has placed our department in a poor light and continues to cause mistrust and controversy within the community we all serve.

“I feel, in the best interest of trying to heal the rift caused by my actions, between this department and its community, I need to step down from serving as chief and from any other leadership positions within the department.

“I hope you accept my resignation in the spirit I render it. I sincerely want the relationship with our community restored to one of trust along with their acceptance and support of our service on their behalf.

“My resignation will become effective immediately on the receipt of this letter by President Rallings.

“I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me as your chief for so many years. It has been an honor to serve you and our community as chief. I ask you pray for reconciliation and healing in our community and hopefully this decision will be the beginning.”

Wayne Murray leads the NAACP in Lancaster County. His first reaction earlier in the week was to question how a public servant can have such views and serve the community in an emergency.

“I wonder how long it’s gonna take them to get to my house to put out the fire,” Murray said. “When we have our leaders bringing racism into the city, we have a serious problem.”

[’He was a true friend’: Community says final goodbyes to Lancaster Co. volunteer firefighter]

Murray spoke with Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis and members of the county council about the post.

“Sometimes you just do stupid stuff, and I did a stupid thing,” Ghent told Channel 9 on Tuesday.

When asked why he wrote the post, Ghent said he got angry over news reports about the Columbus, Ohio officer who shot and killed a teenage girl who was about to stab another girl with a knife.

[Ma’Khia Bryant shooting: Police ID officer who fatally shot Ohio girl, 16, holding knife]

He said he’s tired of the media disrespecting police officers but said his word choice was “poor.”

“I just want to apologize to the Black community of Lancaster and all the areas that might have read this thing. I didn’t mean it as an attack on them, but I was after the news media more than anything else,” he said.

The Lancaster County government gave Channel 9 a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“On Monday April 26, Lancaster County became aware of an offensive social media post by a volunteer firefighter serving an independent fire department. Lancaster County Council and Lancaster County strongly condemn the social media post as its contents are contrary to the values and beliefs of Lancaster County government. The County has received questions about potential disciplinary or personnel action. Volunteer firefighters in Lancaster County are not employees or volunteers of Lancaster County but instead are members of their independent volunteer fire departments. Accordingly, the county cannot take any disciplinary action. However, Lancaster County and County Council take this matter very seriously and urge the fire department to address the matter.”

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Ghent served as chief at the volunteer fire department for 21 years.

“If (the volunteer fire department) want(s) me to. If they ask me to resign, I’ll resign,” he said.

On Wednesday, Channel 9 learned that the department put Ghent on leave for two weeks and relieved him of all duties while they performed an internal investigation.

Ghent said he tried several times to take down the offensive Facebook post, but he said it keeps popping back up.

He said he’s also deactivated his Facebook account.