CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A supervisor in a North Carolina sheriff’s office addressed a biracial deputy with a racial slur multiple times, called him “monkey boy,” mocked him for his hair and pointed a gun at his head at least eight times, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Attorneys for former Beaufort County sheriff’s deputy Dominic Franks filed his discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greenville, North Carolina, on Tuesday against the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Ernie Coleman, supervisor William Ragland and two others. Another defendant was identified in the lawsuit as “John Doe.”
“This kind of lawsuit definitely sheds a light to some of the things going on within law enforcement,” attorney Charles Clemons said on Wednesday, “and puts us in a position that we have to address it or there would never be any trust of law enforcement.”
Coleman said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press that Franks’ allegations “are not true and we are confident that this will be proven in court.” The sheriff said the department will file an answer with the court and it will speak for itself.
In his lawsuit, Franks said he was subjected to “hostile, abusive, racist and unsafe work conditions.”
According to the lawsuit, Franks, who served in the U.S. Army for four years, began working for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office in July 2015. Beaufort County is on the North Carolina coast, about 120 miles (193 kilometres) east of Raleigh.
In November 2016, Franks said he was in a “deputy room” when Ragland pointed his loaded service weapon at his head for approximately 15 seconds and said “What’s up (N-word)?”
Every time Ragland pointed his weapon at Franks, the lawsuit said, Ragland used the racial slur. Also, Ragland often referred to Franks as “monkey boy” and described his hair as “rhino lining” because of its colour and texture.
Franks made several complaints through the department’s chain of command in accordance with policy, the lawsuit said. Despite the repeated complaints, Franks said Ragland continued his abusive behaviour.
The lawsuit also said Ragland had referred to Franks’ uncle with the N-word. In 2003, Treven Franks sued the city of Washington and the Washington Police Department, accusing Ragland and others of subjecting him to a racially hostile work environment, according to the lawsuit.
Dominic Franks was subjected to what the lawsuit said was “unwarranted … disciplinary action” leading up to his resignation in February 2017. Those actions included 13 straight work hours at a hospital in Greenville without relief and facing travel restrictions while on duty without an opportunity to get relief or food. Even after his departure, Franks said he was harassed by Ragland and other members of the department, and suffered retaliation after filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and compensatory damages.
Last week, former Beaufort County Deputy Michael Sheppard filed a complaint saying the defendants retaliated against him with termination for filing an EEOC complaint after he witnessed the incidents involving Franks.
Tom Foreman Jr., The Associated Press