FBI Investigating Ohio National Guardsman After Alleged White Supremacist Online Posts

The National Guard stands guard outside the Justice Center, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Cleveland.
The National Guard stands guard outside the Justice Center, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Cleveland. The City of Cleveland extended its curfew through Tuesday night after riots broke out on Saturday. [Tony Dejak / AP]

The FBI is investigating a member of the Ohio National Guard after federal officials revealed information they say indicates the guard member allegedly expressed white supremacist ideology online before being deployed to assist with protest security in Washington, D.C., according to Gov. Mike DeWine.

In his regular coronavirus briefing Friday, DeWine told reporters the Guardsman is suspended from all missions as the FBIs investigation continues.

The state recently deployed 100 members of the guard to the nation’s capital to help quell protests over the police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis on May 25.

The unidentified Guardsman would be permanently removed from duty if the federal investigation confirms the allegations, DeWine said.

DeWine reminded Ohioans the Guard is made up of citizen soldiers.

“While I fully support everyone's right to free speech, guardsmen and guardswomen are sworn to protect all of us, regardless of race, ethnic background or religion. Our Ohio National Guard members are in a position of trust and authority during times of crisis. And anyone who displays a malice towards specific groups of Americans has no place in the Ohio National Guard,” he said.

Maj. Gen. John C. Harris, the Ohio National Guard adjutant general, appeared as part of the press conference to discuss the coronavirus but did not offer any comments related to the guard member’s suspension or the investigation.

DeWine has directed top military officials to set up a new procedure aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future.

The governor also said the state is establishing an agency to address the health-related and other inequities between white and other Ohioans, also known in public health circles as social determinants of health.

State officials announced Friday that still-shuttered casinos, racinos, amusement parks, water parks and outdoor theaters would be allowed reopen June 19. Reopenings are contingent on businesses providing strict plans to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19, such as limiting the number of people permitted inside a venue, one-way traffic signage and enforced coronavirus sanitation measures.

“They are quite elaborate plans that we believe are consistent with protecting the public and consistent with allowing Ohioans to go about their summer and enjoy their summer in the way that they are used to doing,” the governor said.

Plans are also in the works for reopening the Memorial Golf Tournament scheduled for July, DeWine said.

 

The numbers show there are 35,096 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, with another 2,662 probable cases in Ohio. Hospital officials reported 6,385 total hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of confirmed deaths stands at 2135 -- up 18 over the day before -- with another 220 probable deaths under investigation.

Health officials stress it is still vital for Ohioans to continue efforts to social distance and otherwise help limit the spread of the disease.

Mass coronavirus testing is expected to be available soon. DeWine said the state is working with major pharmacy chains as well as federally qualified community health centers to provide the additional tests. Expanding the number of virus testing sites in communities of color is underway with the assistance of the Ohio National Guard and more details on next steps are expected soon, he said.

Ohio communities of color are among those disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as are nursing facility residents and staff. The Guard is continuing to assist with testing at nursing homes across the state as well.

The governor repeated his desire for Ohio students to return to classrooms in the fall and said he is coordinating plans with the state’s public and private colleges and universities on how to bring students back to campus safely.

This is a developing story and will be updatd as more information becomes available.  Reporters have reached out to federal law enforcement officials for confirmation of the investigation into allegations against a member of the Ohio National Guard.

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