Officer Tyler Richards of the Oakhill, WV Police Department was captured on audio spewing vile racist and homophobic epithets.
Richards’ wife had recently reconnected security cameras in their home due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 atmosphere. What she found when she checked the recording was disturbing.
Recording One Transcript:
Ofc Richards: “Eat a d*** b****. Bunch of q**** ass fa**** f*******
Eat a d*** fa***** f***** Eat a f****** d*** n******, n****** b****. F***!”
Recording Two Transcript:
“F****** piece of god****** n***** trash.”
(You can also hear the couple’s four-month-old son cooing and coughing in the background)
This was not the kind of language he used around her and she was quick to react to what she perceived to be a threat to the community, the people Ofc. Richards was sworn to protect.
Mrs. Richards decided to confront her husband and recorded the following audio:
Recording Three Transcript:
Mrs. Richards: “Devin?”
Ofc. Richards: “I heard he might be trying to maybe use his skin color to his advantage over in Fayetteville because he is the first African American they’ve ever hired and he can just get whatever he wanted and I’m like hopefully not.”
Mrs. Richards: “Oh… who told you that though?
Ofc. Richards: Several people and I really hope not because I love Devin to death.”
Mrs.Rice (Ofc. Richards’ mother): “Oh no, my heart is broken.”
Ofc. Richards: “I don’t want him to end up doing something, saying something maybe to where he thinks that he can get away with it and then gets in trouble.”
This came as a shock to Mrs. Richards as Devin was a family friend. Devin McDowell was just sworn in earlier this year on February 10, 2020.
You can see that Ofc. Richards uses a softer, more “mixed company” kind of tone and language when speaking to his wife. Further evidenced by a conversation he had online while gaming under the name Hooded_Snake, where he refers to his wife’s beliefs of justice as her being “judgmental”.
Another recording of the same topic of conversation seems to show that Ofc. Richards took a particular interest in what he saw as playing the race card.
Recording Four Transcript:
Ofc. Richards: “I really kinda hope that’s not the case because I wouldn’t have thought Devin would pull that kind of a card like, out.”
Mrs. Richards: “I don’t think he would pull a card out anyway. I mean, I think when people say that people pull the race card I think that…
Ofc. Richards: “No, no. Well, no that’s bullshit. It can definitely happen because R***** did just that and I, and I f****** called that b**** because she is just a terrible person.”
But the surprises for Mrs. Richards didn’t end there because after confronting her husband his behavior towards her deteriorated and she also recorded a conversation where he implies that he had made a previous attempt on her life.
Recording Five Transcript:
Ofc. Richards: “People make decisions they have to…
Mrs. Richrads: “Do you care about your *unintelligible*”
Ofc. Richards: “Do I care about you?”
Mrs. Richards: “Um-hmm”
Ofc. Richards: If I didn’t I wouldn’t still do the s*** that I do.”
Mrs. Richards: *sighing* Oh God, I would hate to see what would happen if you didn’t care.
Ofc. Richards: “I know you should see what I put in the Zyrtec.”
Mrs. Richards: “You wouldn’t do anything…”
Ofc. Richards: “You don’t know me. You say I wouldn’t do a lot of stuff, you say I’m a different person so…”
Mrs. Richards: “You wouldn’t poison something knowing that I breastfeed your son.”
Ofc. Richards: “Maybe it’s a controlled poison, maybe it only affects adults.”
Mrs. Richards: “Are you threatening me?”
Ofc. Richards: “No threats, that’s just a promise.”
It’s unclear at this time what kind of poison Ofc. Richards is referring to with these kinds of properties but what is clear is that he intended to threaten his wife. Mrs. Richards took this threat seriously. As she should. There is a high number of domestic violence cases involving members of Law Enforcement. These cases are too often brushed off or never followed up on by fellow officers, sometimes referred to as the Boys Club.
She was quick to take measures to protect herself and the couple’s four-month-old son. She obtained a temporary DVP and started making preparations to leave their family home. A court date regarding the DVP was postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown and the temporary order has been extended. As there has been an increase in domestic violence amid the current lockdown, her concerns are not only valid but a situation that many are facing being trapped with their abuser.
His comments also reflect an anti-LGBT attitude that is also found among the crimes of cops who abuse their authority and make targets of those that are vulnerable and at the mercy of those in positions of power.
This comes on the heels of an incident in 2019 where a WV corrections officer training class was photographed giving the “Nazi Salute”.
This calls into question: What is being taught in these classes? What kind of leadership is present that allows this to happen? Which Law Enforcement Officers can be trusted with the duty they have been given?
African Americans and other people of color, women, and the LGBTQI community are not safe when the very people sworn to protect them are also dangerous.
America is at a crucial point in time, much like the rest of the world, due to COVID-19. Many people have realized that we need one another but also that our success or failure is definitely determined by our leadership and depends on being able to trust our government. Trust in local authorities’ ability to serve and protect marginalized people equally is more important than ever at this moment.
Officer Tyler Richards doesn’t demonstrate the kind of behavior that can be trusted to be fair to all of the citizens under his care and hopefully Oakhill Police Department will do the right thing and make their streets safe for all of their citizens.
Update: As of April 22, 2020, Officer Tyler Richards’ employment has been terminated from the Oakhill Police Department.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that a police officer training class was photographed giving the Nazi salute. It was a training class for corrections officers. The article has been updated to correct this.