Fire Chief Resigns After Telling Local Police 'Stop Responding to Black Neighborhoods'

A Lancaster County, South Carolina, volunteer fire chief resigned Friday over his recent Facebook post that urged police to "stop responding to these black neighborhoods," saying it's better if "they eventually kill each other."

Fire Chief Francis "Butch" Ghent, head of the McDonald Green Volunteer Fire Department, wrote on Facebook April 22—just one day after the deputy-involved shooting of a Black man, Andrew Brown Jr., in Elizabeth City, North Carolina: "Dear Police, stop responding to these black neighborhoods. They will eventually kill each other and the fake news won't have a story,"

Lancaster County officials told the Rock Hill Herald newspaper that they found out about the controversial post Monday, prompting the county council to condemn his Facebook remarks as offensive. Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis confirmed to several outlets that the released apology was Ghent's own words and that he had been suspended at the time from the fire service.

A statement released Tuesday from McDonald Green Department President Mark Rallings said Ghent had been suspended of all duties as chief and as a firefighter pending an internal investigation. But on Friday, alongside his resignation, Ghent issued another apology to the Black community and asked for forgiveness during an on-camera apology to WBTV.

At least two members of the McDonald Green Department Volunteer Fire Department are African American, the group's website appears to show.

"God forbid if he answers a fire at a Black home, are you gonna let all the kids and everybody in the home burn because they're Black?" said Tonya Ross, a community activist in Lancaster, in an interview responding to the resignation on the Fox 46 Charlotte station.

On Friday Ghent sent the following official resignation to local news outlets and county officials:

"I wanted to apologize to you, the members of the McDonald Green Volunteer Department, for the recent controversy caused by my post on social media. I realize this has placed our department in a poor light and continues to cause mistrust and controversy within the community we all serve.

I feel, in the best interest of trying to heal the rift caused by my actions, between this department and its community, I need to step down from serving Chief and from any other leadership positions within the department. I hope you accept my resignation in the spirit I render it.

I sincerely want the relationship with our community restored to one of trust along with their acceptance and support of our service on their behalf. My resignation will become effective immediately on the receipt of this letter by President Rallings.

I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me as your chief for so many years. It has been an honor to serve you and our community as chief. I ask you to pray for reconciliation and healing in our community and hopefully, this decision will be the beginning."

Several local community leaders applauded the resignation. But Ghent's apology itself also irked community members after he told WBTV Tuesday, "I guess it was racially insensitive, I did not mean it that way," adding that he was only trying to defend the police from the national news media.

Newsweek reached out to Lancaster County officials Saturday afternoon for any additional remarks about Ghent's remarks, apology or departure.

francis butch ghent facebook post
A Lancaster County, South Carolina, volunteer fire chief resigned Friday over his recent Facebook post which urged police to "stop responding to these black neighborhoods," saying it's better if "they eventually kill each other." Screenshot: Francist Butch Ghent | Facebook