Ex-N Carolina deputies sue sheriff after reporting comments

April 7, 2021 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two former North Carolina deputies are alleging that they were fired by a sheriff in retaliation for reporting his friend’s racist and homophobic comments, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Wake County deputies Steven Williamson and Alvis Speight say they lost their jobs one month after Sheriff Gerald Baker’s election in 2018 because they told supervisors about Lt. Teddy Patrick’s behavior during a training session one year earlier, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.


Patrick “told the deputies present that he ‘didn’t believe in being gay,’ did not like ’gay people,’ and made statements that were derogatory toward homosexuals,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh. The lawsuit said Patrick outed one deputy at the session for being gay, adding “words to the effect of that if a man came to his home dressed as a woman, he would not permit that man to enter his home.”

Patrick, who is Black, also said, “if white people keep killing themselves, we Black people will be the majority, instead of the minority” and told deputies present he felt uncomfortable around Muslims on airplanes, according to the lawsuit.

Williamson and Speight reported Patrick to a captain and to then-Chief of Operations Richard Johnson, the lawsuit said. Williamson also told then-Sheriff Donnie Harrison, who later demoted Patrick, causing him to lose pay and supervisory authority.

The lawsuit described Baker and Patrick as “close friends and confidants,” belonging to the same Masonic lodge and traveling together in the Dominican Republic with other deputies.

Baker won the sheriff’s election over Harrison in 2018. Shortly afterward, the lawsuit says, he asked Williamson and Speight to his office and told them their services were no longer needed. They were the first and only deputies dismissed, the lawsuit said. After the election, Patrick approached the deputy he had described as gay and said words to the effect of, “You don’t have anything to worry about, I know who was responsible,” according to the lawsuit.

Baker also declined to swear in Johnson, the former chief of operations, prompting him to file his own lawsuit in 2020. That case is still pending. The sheriff has twice promoted Patrick since taking office, the lawsuit said.

Baker disputed the accusation in 2019 after Williamson and Speight were interviewed on television, calling reports inaccurate. His office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new lawsuits Wednesday.

The deputies are seeking damages for lost pay and benefits, compensation for pain and suffering, a jury trial and whatever other relief the court sees as just.