A former Lexington County Sheriff’s deputy who claims he and his wife were blocked from his agency’s Facebook page is suing a sheriff and his department, reported The State.
Eddie and Amanda Richardson allege in the lawsuit that they have been blocked from publicly commenting or sending messages to the page, claiming that it is infringing on their First Amendment rights.
At first glance, this suit might look rather petty, but when looking deeper, Richardson and his wife have just cause to be upset.
Eddie Richardson was injured in the line of duty in August of 2016 while responding to a burglary call. Richardson was reportedly struck “violently” by the suspected getaway car, causing massive hip and spine injuries. Richardson ended up shooting and killing the suspect during the call.
Eddie’s health situation eventually led to the deputy having to medically retire. Shortly thereafter, the department stopped covering Richardson’s health insurance, forcing him and his wife into a tight spot with expenses.
Our thoughts and support go out to Lexington County Sheriff's Deputy Eddie Richardson and his family. His career was cut short by an on-duty crash, and he now is fighting for health benefits as he continues to recover. https://t.co/MAt1r9f77t
— SmithJordanLavery (@LocalLawyersSJL) January 25, 2018
Sheriff Jay Koon reportedly asked the county council to continue providing health insurance coverage as if Richardson were still working for the department, but the request was denied.
Eddie was additionally unable to meet requirements to qualify for insurance through the state Public Employee Benefit Authority, and as a result, his wife had to leave her job to provide care.
Then, months later in the fall of 2017, the Lexington County Sheriffs Department posted a message on Facebook about a $500 sign-on bonus to attract new recruits. Richardson saw the post and commented, “That’s a great idea. But it would be a good idea to instead of doing bonuses, put the money into a fund to take care of wounded officers.”
A page administrator quickly deleted the comment and then blocked Richardson from commenting on the page, according to the complaint.
Shortly after, Eddie’s wife Amanda posted a comment saying that officers should not be blocked from the page, especially not after what her husband went through.
You can probably guess what happened next. She was blocked as well. Though the couple could still read posts from the page, they were unable to ‘like’, comment or send messages.
Multiple courts have ruled in favor of individuals who’ve been blocked from social media outlets, including the Richardson’s lawyer Tom Fernandez, who won a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Transportation for blocking him from commenting on their public page last year.
Courts have determined time and again that these online forums fall under public spaces and therefore deserve free speech rights.
The Richardsons are seeking damages and reasonable fees and costs.
In our opinion, it’s time to give the injured officer and his wife what they deserve from what they’ve gone through. There are too many officers who get hurt in the line of duty and are left to their own means. It’s time to start taking care of our own.