COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A former South Carolina police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, claiming he was unjustifiably fired over a photo of himself posing in Confederate flag underwear during last summer's swirling debate over the flag and other Confederate symbols.
In his filing, former Sgt. Shannon Dildine wrote that he was aware of the debate, which exploded after a white man charged with shooting nine black people to death at a Charleston church was shown in online photos embracing Confederate symbols and talked about starting a race war.
But Dildine, then an officer with police in North Charleston — about 6 miles north of Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston — said he was on vacation when the shootings happened and wasn't aware that alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, had been seen in photos glorifying the flag.
The veteran South Charleston officer posted the photo of himself days after Roof allegedly shot the worshippers during a Wednesday night Bible study, saying in his lawsuit he did so "to diffuse a debate that two of his Facebook friends were having over the Confederate flag issue."
The department contacted Dildine about the photo, which he said he deleted from social media immediately. He was fired days later, told he was being terminated because of the photo.
In his lawsuit against the city, Dildine says that he is not a racist and views the flag as part of his southern heritage. He said a black officer who posted a photo of himself alongside someone wearing a "Black Lives Matter" shirt was not fired or disciplined afterward.
City and police officials didn't immediately return emails seeking comment Friday afternoon. They have not yet responded to the lawsuit in court filings of their own.
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