Gus Kenworthy
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Alabama Cop on Leave for Antigay Post About 15-Year-Old's Suicide

Nigel Shelby

A sheriff’s deputy was placed on leave for making anti-LGBTQ comments on a Facebook post about a 15-year-old Huntsville, Ala., boy who died by suicide after experiencing antigay bullying, according to 

In a Facebook post on local TV station WZDX’s page intended to raise awareness about anti-LGBTQ bullying following news that 15-year-old Nigel Shelby died by suicide, Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves wrote the following:

"Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump, BBQ. That’s my kind of LGBTQ movement,” Graves wrote in a now-deleted post. "I’m seriously offended there is such a thing such as the movement. Society cannot and should not accept this behavior.”

The sheriff’s office moved swiftly and placed Graves on leave pending an audit of his behavior.  

“The Sheriff’s Office holds all its employees to a high standard, and the public can be assured that a thorough and complete audit will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken,” Madison County spokesman Lt. Donny Shaw said in a statement. “The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the audit.”

In the statement, Sherriff Ken Turner offered his condolences to the family and friends of Nigel Shelby, “whose young life was lost to suicide last week.”

“Bullying of any group or person in or outside of schools is unacceptable, and I welcome any and all efforts to raise awareness to bullying and bring bullying to a stop,” Turner added.

Meanwhile, the community has rallied in response to news about Shelby, and a GoFundMe page that was launched to help Shelby's mother cover the funeral expenses has surpassed its goal. The crowdfunding campaign has raised over $27,000, exceeding its $26,000 goal.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, the American Journal of Public Health reports that every incident of physical or verbal harassment against an LGBTQ young person increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by an average of 2.5 times.

“We know how challenging coming out can be at any age, especially in environments that may include risk factors for increased rates of discrimination, rejection, and bullying," said Amit Paley, CEO of the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that offers resources for youth at risk for suicide.

"At The Trevor Project, we hear from LGBTQ young people who have thoughts of suicide or feel unsafe or unloved at school or home — just for being who they are. We encourage adults who interact with youth to learn more about LGBTQ competent suicide prevention and risk detection, and to remind LGBTQ youth that they are never alone, that their lives have value, and are loved.”

If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

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