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Auxvasse police chief reinstated after inflammatory Facebook posts

June 15, 2020 at 6:20 p.m. | Updated June 16, 2020 at 4:54 a.m.

AUXVASSE - Police Chief Kevin Suedmeyer's administrative leave ended Friday - 24 hours after it began following inflammatory posts on social media.

Newly released minutes from two closed emergency meetings show the vote to place Suedmeyer on administrative leave occurred Thursday. City attorney Tom Riley said the decision followed a "citizen complaint" regarding Suedmeyer's Facebook posts.

All four Auxvasse aldermen - plus Mayor Tom Henage, City Supervisor Mike Bertschinger and City Clerk Sandra Lavy - were present at the 4 p.m. meeting at Auxvasse City Hall.

Lavy said Suedmeyer was present for part of the meeting; he was called in to give his side of the story, she said. He was not listed in the meeting minutes provided by the city.

Suedmeyer was placed on leave by a 3-1 vote. South Ward Alderman Bret Barnes voted against placing Suedmeyer on leave "pending investigation of allegations," while aldermen Ashley Steinbeck, Gary Westerman and Danielle Huddleston voted in favor.

During a phone conversation early Friday afternoon, Henage told a reporter to address further questions about Suedmeyer to Riley. Riley responded to questions about the investigation with a brief emailed statement June 9, which he said had been approved by Henage.

"The city council, the mayor and city staff reviewed the police chief's social media posts; reviewed his personnel records and any prior complaints; spoke with the police chief, the complainant, and other members of the community; and also reviewed its own personnel policies," Riley wrote.

On Friday, the aldermen and Henage met again at 4 p.m. at Auxvasse City Hall. Barnes made a motion to reinstate Suedmeyer with a verbal warning "as stated in the City of Auxvasse Personnel Policy," according to the minutes.

The vote to reinstate was 2-2; Barnes and Westerman voted in favor, while Huddleston and Steinbeck voted against the motion. Henage broke the tie.

The aldermen then voted unanimously to close executive records and end the meeting.

City Supervisor Bertschinger called Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism late Friday about Suedmeyer's reinstatement, Chism confirmed in an email Monday.

"I will not be providing any further information regarding this matter for the City of Auxvasse, and I advised the mayor of that fact," Riley added in an email Monday.

Henage did not respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

The police chief was placed on leave after inflammatory posts he made on his Facebook page surfaced. Suedmeyer's page was open to public viewing until it vanished at about 11:40 a.m. Thursday - shortly after a reporter called the city in an attempt to contact Suedmeyer.

"Want to know something that's fairly important," read one post from May 31. "If your dumb a** stands in the roadway blocking vehicular traffic - you deserve to be run over. That will help cleanup the gene pool. How stupid must you be."

One of his Facebook friends - Callaway County Western District commissioner candidate Will Shackelford - responded, "Have you come across any road blocks?"

"Nope (and) I certainly won't stop for them - though if they insist - I'll identify myself - they can back down or get shot I am bull**** intolerant," Suedmeyer replied.

Barnes, who made the motion to reinstate Suedmeyer, "liked" another Facebook post in which Suedmeyer wrote, "Corona virus coming to rioters everywhere Darwin - work your magic. Time to ramp up the funeral industry."

Other posts are memes created by other Facebook users. One shows a caricature of former President Barack Obama sticking a target onto the back of a uniformed police officer; Suedmeyer shared it June 4, captioning it "The a**hole that started it all." Another shared the same day depicts a black person exiting through a broken store window holding a number of boxes while other black individuals look on; it's labeled "Looting: When free housing, free food, free education and free phones just aren't enough."

The Missouri ACLU and Aleigha Turner, a Black Lives Matter activist living in Auxvasse, condemned the posts Friday.

Sara Baker, ACLU of Missouri's policy director, noted the First Amendment and the right to protest - especially when the government inflicts harm on citizens - helps set America apart from authoritarian states.

"The police chief sets the tone for the entire department, and they must protect the right to assemble for all citizens," Baker wrote. "It is inappropriate for an officer of the law to attempt to chill speech with violent threats. The posts of the Auxvasse police chief are a fitting example of why so many Americans have taken to the streets in support of demanding law enforcement confront its history of discriminatory practices against the black and brown citizens they are sworn to protect."


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