Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Attica, NY – A New York state correctional officer has been suspended without pay for a “vile posting” on Facebook about Saturday’s mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, and other correctional officers who liked or reacted to the post are also facing discipline.
Ten people, including a retired Buffalo police officer, were killed on May 14 when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire inside a grocery store.
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) said that Correction Officer Gregory C. Foster II, who works at Attica Correctional Facility located about an hour from Buffalo, shared “a despicable post” about the incident on social media, NBC News reported.
Correction Officer Foster shared a meme on Facebook that included a picture of the Tops supermarket where the massacre occurred with the caption “clean up” on multiple aisles.
The post also included the question “too soon?” according to the Times Union.
Correction Officer Foster’s post has since been deleted.
DOCCS said on Wednesday that it was seeking to terminate Correction Officer Foster, a 25-year veteran of the agency, NBC News reported.
“The comments made by this correction officer are in violation of multiple Department rules and will not be tolerated,” the agency said in a statement. “This vile posting does not represent the morals and values of the thousands of staff members in the Department.”
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Anthony Annucci put out a memo to the entire correction agency that condemned Corrections Officer Foster’s offensive post, the Times Union reported.
“The department has engaged the Civil Rights Task Force, which we are members of, for potential criminal prosecution,” the agency said in a statement. “The department has also launched an internal investigation to identify and discipline any staff who may have engaged with the posting.”
The statement added that the “vile posting does not represent the morals and values of the thousands of staff members in the department,” the Times Union reported.
Then DOCCS went after all of the correction officers who had liked, reacted to, or commented on Correction Officer Foster’s post.
The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents corrections officers, also issued a statement to its membership, the Times Union reported.
The union denounced Correction Officer Foster’s post and his colleagues who may have “liked” it or commented in it with emojis.
“This is a sickening display for all human life and NYSCOPBA does not condone such hatred,” the statement read. “Those who posted on social media and those who contributed and/or reacted similarly to this post are very likely to face swift discipline from DOCCS.”
“As your union, we will ensure that you receive your due process rights all the way through to the bitter end, but we do not support the actions that brought you to this point,” the union continued.
NYSCOPBA added that it was “angry and disheartened” that its members had behaved in such a manner, the Times Union reported.
The deadly attack occurred at Tops Supermarket on Jefferson Avenue at approximately 2:30 p.m. on May 14, CNN reported.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said the suspect, who was wearing tactical gear, used an “assault weapon” to murder three people out in the store’s parking lot.
A fourth victim was wounded.
The gunman then went into the bustling store and opened fire on the business’s armed security guard, 55-year-old retired Buffalo Police Officer Aaron Salter.
The retired officer shot the gunman multiple times, but the suspect’s armor-plated protective gear stopped the rounds, WIVB reported.
Salter was ultimately killed in the shootout, according to police.
“He was very heavily armed,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said of the gunman, according to CNN. “He had tactical gear, he had a tactical helmet on, he had a camera that he was livestreaming what he was doing.”
After killing the retired police officer, the suspect shot nine more people inside the grocery store, according to investigators.
Eleven of the victims were black and two were white, WGRZ reported.
Four of those who were shot were employees at the store.
Three more people were injured during the incident, WGRZ reported.
The gunman ultimately surrendered to police outside the business.
Commissioner Gramaglia said the 18-year-old gunman primarily targeted black victims and described the mass shooting as a hate crime, CNN reported.