Maryland official fired for posting memes appearing to support teen arrested in fatal shootings of Jacob Blake protesters
Kyle Rittenhouse's attorney says the teen shot the protesters in self-defense.
The deputy director of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's Community Initiative, which includes the Commission on African American History and Culture, has been fired for allegedly posting "divisive" memes that appeared to support the white 17-year-old suspect charged as an adult in the fatal shootings of two men at a protest for Jacob Blake, officials said.
Blake is a Black man who was shot in the back and paralyzed by a Wisconsin police officer.
Arthur "Mac" Love IV, was terminated from the position he's held since 2015 after he allegedly posted the memes on a Facebook group called Inside Maryland Politics in response to the shooting to the two protesters, sparking condemnation from local leaders, officials said.
"These divisive images and statements are inconsistent with the mission and core values of the Office of Community Initiatives. Earlier today, I relieved this employee of his duties," Steve McAdams, executive director the governor's Community Initiative, said in a statement released following Love's firing on Saturday.
Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan, called Love's online posts "obviously totally inappropriate."
"We fully support the immediate actions taken by Director McAdams to address this matter," Churchill said in a statement.
The swift action taken against Love came after he allegedly reposted a photo of Kyle Rittenhouse -- the teen charged for allegedly shooting three people, two of them fatally, at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin -- cleaning graffiti from a vandalized wall. The original post caption read: "I'm grateful that conservatives are rallying behind this kid. He genuinely seems like a good person."
Love also allegedly posted multiple memes about the shooting, and one of them was a screenshot of a smiling police officer giving two thumbs up at the scene of the crime. "Dont [sic] Be A Thug If You Cant Take A Slug!" the caption read.
Another meme allegedly posted by Love showed two images of Gaige Grosskreutz, the victim who survived being shot in the arm at Tuesday's Kenosha protest, along with the caption, "When you get 2nd place in Wisconsins [sic] Annual Quick Draw Competition."
Reached on Sunday by ABC News, Love said he has been in contact with attorneys and plans to make a statement soon. He said his supporters plan to hold a news conference on Monday.
"There are people actually doing a press conference for me tomorrow because all the people I helped throughout the state are really upset," Love said. "As soon as I can, I'll talk to somebody. I want to get my side out because this is not right."
Love referred all questions for the time being to Gary Collins, a friend serving as a spokesman for Love and his family.
Asked if Love was attempting to support Rittenhouse by posting the memes, Collins told ABC News, "What Mr. Love was trying to do is support the concept that there are always two sides to a story, and that unfortunately in today's culture and heightened political environment, folks are very quick to cast judgment."
Collins said Love has been getting legal counsel and will be making a decision "as to the best and most appropriate action for himself."
He confirmed that multiple supporters of Love plan to hold a news conference on Monday.
"The guy spent six years in public service under this administration alone," Collins said. "He's essentially dedicated his life to public service, particularly community initiatives, not just here in Maryland but around the country. So there are a number of folks who are pretty disappointed at what we feel is a hastened dismissal."
Collins said Love did not receive any sort of opportunity to explain himself before he was fired.
"He became aware of his dismissal by probably no less than 50 calls from media outlets before his own boss contacted him," Collins said.
Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois, was charged in the fatal shootings of Anthony M. Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, as well as the shooting of Grosskreutz. He is being held in a juvenile facility in Illinois, pending a Sept. 25 hearing on the status of his extradition.
The violence occurred late Tuesday night near a gas station in Kenosha, some 40 miles south of Milwaukee, amid the third night of protests over the police shooting of Blake. One of the victims in the deadly shooting was shot five times, including in the head, and the other was shot in the chest, according to a criminal complaint. A third gunshot victim was taken to the hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.
Rittenhouse, a former Illinois police cadet, surrendered to authorities in Antioch, Illinois, on Wednesday, local police said.
He was part of a group that went to Kenosha to volunteer to protect businesses after several were looted and burned to the ground during the protests.
"Kyle is an innocent boy who justifiably exercised his fundamental right of self-defense," one of Rittenhouse's attorneys, L. Lin Wood, said on Friday. "In doing so, he likely saved his own life and possibly the lives of others."