Alabama Deputy Placed on Leave For Allegedly Making Anti-LGBTQ Comments About Bullied Teen Who Took Own Life

Nigel Shelby
The Madison County Sheriff's Office officer sparked backlash after speaking about the death of 15-year-old Nigel Shelby (pictured). GoFundMe/Rocket City Pride/Harry Lucas

An Alabama police deputy has been placed on administrative leave after being accused of making anti-LGBTQ comments on Facebook, officials have confirmed.

The officer, who works for the Madison County Sheriff's Office in Huntsville, sparked backlash online after his account posted about the death of 15-year-old Nigel Shelby. The teenager took his own life last Thursday (April 18), allegedly because he had been bullied about his sexuality.

The posts, published by an account linked to deputy Jeff Graves, were made under an article posted by media outlet WZDX, which detailed local efforts to raise awareness about bullying faced by the LGBTQ community—including fundraising by campaigning group Rocket City Pride.

As reported by, the account wrote: "Liberty. Guns. Bible. Trump. BBQ. That's my kind of LGBTQ. I'm seriously offended that there is such a thing such as this movement.

"Society cannot and should not accept this behavior. I have a right to be offended and will always be offended by this fake movement which requires no special attention but by persons with an altered ego and fake agenda." He later defended his stance as "freedom of speech."

A similar anti-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) slogan recently caused outrage after it was seen printed on a T-shirt being sold by a food truck in Kentucky.

In a statement yesterday, the Madison County Sheriff's Office confirmed that an employee had been "placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the audit."

"The sheriff's office has assigned these allegations to be audited with the information that has been provided to us. 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," added the statement, a full version of which was posted on Facebook.

The deputy's alleged posts have since been deleted. A LinkedIn profile for a Huntsville-based Jeff Graves indicates he has been employed as a Madison County "public servant" for 12 years.

Local sheriff Kevin Turner offered his condolences to the family and friends of Nigel Shelby, and confirmed that his "young life was lost to suicide last week."

Turner said: "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. The Madison County Sheriff's Office is proud of the community support and engagement we have received over the years, and we look forward to growing those community partnerships."

Aaron King, the principal of Huntsville High School, released a letter about the 9th grade student's death to parents and guardians of students on Saturday.

He wrote: "Thoughts and prayers are with Nigel's family. Parents, please talk to your students about Nigel's death. Know and be aware of changes in your child. Talk to them about what they see, words they speak and actions they can take to make a difference. We must be better."

A GoFundMe started to help Shelby's family with funeral costs had raised more than $26,000 at the time of writing. Tributes and messages have poured in from sympathizers and supporters.

"There are no words that can be said to make sense of this devastating news," Rocket City Pride wrote on its Facebook page, posting a link to LGBTQ support group The Trevor Project.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.