(EDITORS NOTE: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.)
RUSHVILLE, Ill. (WGEM) -- The sheriff of Schuyler County, Ill. is under fire for what some community members call racially charged comments on his personal Facebook page.
Don Schieferdecker admits to making the comments about a photo posted to Facebook about 3 a.m. on March 17, after returning home from a late night stakeout. The comments included the phrase "little fag Jew boy."
"It got taken in bad taste," Schieferdecker said. "It wasn't meant to hurt anyone."
Schieferdecker said he and some dispatchers employed by his office were joking around, commenting back and forth, on Facebook. He said the person he was referring to, a friend of his and the dispatchers, was not offended by the comments.
"I was just taking a fun jab at an employee. It wasn't racist," the sheriff explained.
But, other people disagree and find the comments unacceptable.
"People are trying to write it off as a joke. It's not a joke," Rushville native Chris Ward said. "I was just shocked to see it."
Ward said he learned of the comments on the Internet. Although he now lives in Springfield, Ill., Ward said he still considers Rushville home and he frequently visits because his family and friends are still there.
"This makes me feel not safe. This doesn't lead to anything good," Ward added.
The incident also prompted Rushville Mayor Scott Thompson to make his own statement on the City of Rushville's Facebook page. Thompson said that while Schieferdecker is a friend, he doesn't condone the actions.
"Don is my friend but I will not speak to his heart or thoughts," Thompson wrote. "I do not condone language which conveys discrimination or prejudice due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national origin," the mayor went on to write. "Such language would reflect poorly upon the individual and the community."
Thompson said that while he has no jurisdiction over the issue, he received dozens of e-mails and phone calls to speak out on the incident. He believes Schieferdecker's comments aren't a fair representation of Rushville, or Schuyler County, and that many strides have been made recently to welcome immigrants that have moved into the county that work at Cargill.
"The sheriff and I are friends, but what was said was not right. Regardless whether you think it a joke, language isn't a joke," Thompson said.
"Professionally I don't have a responsibility to this. But I do as a member of the community and a human rights campaign. I do as being a relative of someone that is gay. I do as a result of being a friend of gays and homosexuals and people of Jewish faith."
Ward, 29, said he heard language similar to the sheriff's Facebook comments when he was growing up in Rushville. He said it often went overlooked then, but he's glad that attention is now being given to it.
"This is a good town and a good community. I love Rushville, but somebody has to say something about this."
Schieferdecker said he can't believe people are taking his comments so seriously.
"It was in humor, but I'm ready to sell the computer," he said.
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