Three West Virginia corrections employees have been fired, officials said Friday, after a picture emerged of a training class performing the Nazi salute.
In the picture released by West Virginia's Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS), three rows of over two dozen trainees with the state's Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation were seen seated together, all raising their hands at an angle closely mimicking the fascist salute. The caption indicates their class number and the dates the training was conducted: Oct. 21–Nov. 27 of this year.
The photo was first discovered on the day of graduation, Nov. 27, and the words "Hail Byrd" seen at the top of the image refer to a training instructor with the class, a department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
According to an update released by DMAPS on Friday, three people have been fired and 34 are under investigation without pay. Two of the people who were fired are correctional academy trainers and one is a cadet. As it is an ongoing investigation, the names and disciplinary statuses of those involved are not being released.
At a press conference held Friday afternoon, Gov. Jim Justice called the salute "a disgraceful thing and an act of stupidity in many ways."
"These people deserve to be exposed, they absolutely do. I don't know if I can legally do that," Justice added.
But at the same press conference, DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy said that they are concerned about identifying the people in the photograph due to "potential threats to the individuals from other type [sic] groups.”
In a memo to employees, Sandy previously called the photo "distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate."
He said officials have conducted more than 50 interviews over 72 hours as they've been investigating the case.