911 official’s post about building border wall gets him placed on leave, co-worker fired


(Wikimedia public domain)

Two high-level West Virginia emergency services officials have reportedly been disciplined because of the macabre and racist way they chose to highlight and celebrate their support for President Donald Trump’s proposed southern U.S. border wall.

Last Friday then-Raleigh County Emergency Operations Services assistant director Mark Wilson uploaded a disturbing historical photo to Facebook that showed the decapitated heads of New Zealand’s indigenous Polynesian people mounted on a wall behind a white man.

According to The Register-Herald, Wilson captioned the photo by writing, “BE THANKFUL DONALD TRUMP IS BUILDING THE WALL! MINE WOULD LOOK MORE LIKE THIS!”

Below is a screenshot obtained by the paper:

(Twitter screenshot)

Notice the supportive comment beneath it by Jamie Bennett, the then-deputy director of Fayette County Emergency Management, who wrote, “What like your office wall.”

The Register-Herald notes that the post “drew swift fire,” with the Raleigh County Commission and Beckley city representatives calling it “abhorrent,” to say the least.

“Mr. Wilson does not speak for the Raleigh County Commission or the EOC. I view this as abhorrent and in direct contradiction with my view, the view of the Raleigh County Commission, the view of the EOC and the view of every person with whom I associate. That’s disgusting. That’s absolutely disgusting. I don’t know how else to say it,” commission president Byrd White III said.

Following a discussion between White and EOC director John Zilinski, Wilson was reportedly placed on leave: “We have started an investigation and Mr. Wilson has been placed on administrative leave,” Zilinski said in a statement Saturday.

“Raleigh County Emergency Services Authority has a mission to protect the life and property of the residents of our county and its visitors. We are an agency to promote peace and well-being for all people regardless of Race, Religion, Sex, Age, Handicap, Political or Religious beliefs or National Origin.”

It’s not clear why Wilson wasn’t just outright fired, as had been the request of Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold: “I am not on social media, but if this is proven to be a true post from a city-supported EOC agency employee, my initial response is (that) he or she should be terminated,” he said.

Councilman Tim Berry seemed a bit more forgiving. He suggested that Wilson’s account may have been hacked but argued that if his account wasn’t hacked, then he needs to face “some type of disciplinary action or termination, even.”

“We work so hard to be inclusive in the city, and then you have something like this come up,” he added.


What’s unusual is that Wilson’s buddy, Bennett, who as a reminder didn’t post the image but rather merely commented on it, has faced far worse consequences. Termination, to be exact.

“Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah verified Saturday that Bennett no longer worked at the Fayette EOC. He declined to comment on personnel matters but said the post was ‘gross,'” the Register-Herald reported.

The man featured in the photo Wilson shared to Facebook was Maj.-Gen. Horatio Gordon Robley, a British army officer who fought in the New Zealand land wars of the 1860s and became infamous for his collection of the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Known as mokomokai or toi moko, these heads became popular as settlers arrived in New Zealand.

“Upon first contact with Europeans … toi moko became an international trade commodity reaching its peak in the early 19th century, most notably in exchange for guns,” the Scottish Museums Federation notes.

“It was this trade which caused an intense demand for toi moko, resulting in the creation of toi moko for non-traditional reasons and by non-traditional means.  There is evidence of practices such as slaves being killed with fake moko, or traditional Māoritattoos, being added to the face postmortem, and there is even evidence of living people with moko being auctioned off as toi moko before being murdered.”

That’s nothing to celebrate.



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