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A Colorado police officer has been suspended after commenting “KILL THEM ALL” on a Facebook live stream of a Black Lives Matter protest in June. He later attributed the sentiment to a combination of his “Metallica rage” and anxiety.
Sgt. Keith Wrede, who has been with the Colorado Springs Police Department for 20 years, has been issued a 40-hour suspension resulting in over $2,000 in lost wages after an internal investigation into the incident, Police Chief Vince Niski said Monday. He’ll also be reassigned to another unit.
“I feel not only are they letting the community down but they are letting the police officers down,” Martin Lewis, a co-founder of Colorado Springs Oversight, told the Gazette.
Niski said in a letter posted to the department’s website that Wrede’s comments were “inappropriate” and “unacceptable” and he doesn’t condone them. But he also said they were made out of “frustration” rather than an intent to cause harm.
“I fully recognize that it will take time to rebuild relationships that have now broken,” Niski wrote in the letter. “The only thing I would ask of our community is to not condemn every officer that wears our badge because of one individual’s action. Please remember officers are human too and make mistakes.”
Wrede previously supervised the department’s Strategic Investigations Unit, according to a transcript of his interview with the department’s internal affairs section. In a summary of its investigation, the department said his comments on the livestream were over an “anti-police protest” that occurred on Interstate 25 on June 30, when demonstrators blocked traffic for about 30 minutes. Thirteen people were ultimately cited over the incident, according to KKTV, a local CBS affiliate.
The live stream was hosted by KRDO, a local ABC affiliate, and someone anonymously flagged to a reporter there that a profile of a man named “Steven Eric” had commented “KILL THEM ALL” and “KILL EM ALL.” The profile was tagged in photos of Wrede. While the Facebook account was later deleted or made private, its existence came up when a reporter was speaking to an officer “regarding other media related matters.”
Wrede later confirmed in an interview with Sgt. Mareshah Duncan that the comments and profile were his, according to police documents released this week. He was off-duty and relaxing with his wife while watching the protest, which he said drew attention to “the murder of George Floyd, police reform, killing cops, trying to kill cops.”
He told investigators that he didn’t mean “kill them, as in kill them” when he made his comments but was instead “raging on some other stuff.” Parts of the interview are redacted, but Wrede said his comments were partially the result of “music” and him “going crazy on Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’ on the way home.”
He has a “rage playlist,” he explained, that includes Metallica and Slayer and helps with his anxiety.
He said he made the comments within seconds by copying and pasting the same statement before “Facebook shut me down.” Duncan pointed out the comments were actually minutes apart.
“Sure. So then you see there, instead of “KILL THEM,” that’s probably an autocorrect whereas “KILL ‘EM” is, you know, my Metallica rage,” Wrede responded. “I mean, same thing.”
Wrede said the comments were “unprofessional” and that he wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. He said he felt “horrible” and his comments were “not motivated by race or bias.” He emphasized in another interview that he was not racist.
But Duncan also asked about another Facebook comment, in which Wrede wrote, “Solid move BLM way to make your point. I hope you are proud you damn Terrorist.” It’s unclear from the transcript of his interview when or where that comment was made on the platform.
Wrede responded that he was “just having a very difficult time with the movement” and said that a fellow police officer had told him during the second day of local protests that “they” had shot at another officer’s car.
That bullet hole made Wrede think of previous incidents during which he’d been shot at, he said, including the mass shooting that occurred at a local Planned Parenthood in 2015.
“I could not get out of my mind that they’re gonna kill us, and we’re gonna die,” Wrede said. “I’m out there on the streets surrounded by guys, by high-powered rifles. They’ve already taken shots at us and it just started building and building and building and building.”
Wrede’s attorney, John Newsome, did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.
Cover: A man wearing a face mask and a t-shirt in support of Black Lives Matter movement during the demonstration. (Photo by Jesus Merida / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)