SALEM, Ore. -- A Chicago woman is taking the Salem Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s to task over an instance of politically fueled online trolling.
“I've never had this happen before,” said Liz McArthur via Facetime Sunday.
The Salem Police Department said its officer has done nothing wrong. The sheriff's department is still looking into the matter.
The group of men targeting her, she says, were strangers. She knew none of them.
It wasn’t until later, that she discovered two of them were a Salem police officer a Marion County deputy.
McArthur said it all started on November 20th, when she posted a link to an editorial, written by a contributor to the Huffington Post.
The piece, titled “Women Of The World: It’s Time To March On Washington”, encouraged women to attend the planned “Women’s March on Washington” on January 21st, the day after Donald Trump’s scheduled inauguration.
McArthur’s caption read “I am going.”
“I didn't want to spark any sort of debate. I just wanted to feel empowered and that this was happening,” she said.
Within hours, she says, the trolls arrived.
One of the first comments, she says, came from James Coleman.
It came in the form of a meme, showing a character from the movie “Frozen”. It read “The election is over. Let it go.”
Screenshots taken by McArthur show he then posted a link to a guide for Paxil, an anti-depressant.
She said he wrote "Irrational ... turmoil ... tummy breath ... it will calm you..." McArthur said he kept posting and tagged friends.
“It was kind of an out of body, like a bad dream,” she said. “It was sort of spinning out of control.”
One of the men tagged posted a meme, showing Hillary Clinton. It read "The first woman in the U.S. to lose two presidential elections."
He posted another showing a Clinton supporter crying. It read “When everyone gets a trophy, you don’t know how to lose.”
McArthur swore at the men, told them to stop and tried to ignore it. The second man then posted another meme, reading "Just a troll fishing for liberals."
He wrote things like suggesting McArthur take the antidepressant Paxil. He followed up, writing in a separate comment "Just a troll fishing for liberals."
That’s when, she said, someone else wrote something. This time it was about the men themselves.
“I was in complete disbelief. I only know great cops,” she said.
That’s when McArthur discovered James Coleman was, in fact, Deputy James Coleman of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Chad Galusha was Officer Chad Galusha of the Salem Police Department.
McArthur said once that information was revealed, the men began deleting their comments. She managed to grab screenshots of some.
“It's behavior of a coward, and I know police officers are brave. They're not cowards, and that's what trolling is,” she said. “They were like a faceless mob to me.”
McArthur also wrote a letter to both agencies, reporting the behavior.
It read, about Deputy Coleman: “I don't need to explain what he was doing. He was trolling me. I know that… Each time he tried to engage me, I responded exclusively with "get f*****". I don't know this man, did I mention that? He came at ME. As I said, we are not friends on Facebook. He went WAY out of his way to come after me and at one point he even started tagging his friends in empty comments for...backup? No idea. But then I had his Facebook mob after me. Which I understand isn't a real mob, but it was unwanted, unprovoked and disturbing.”
McArthur said Sunday, she doesn’t want the men fired. She said does want an apology.
“When people are getting harassed they're supposed to be able to go to the police, and I wouldn't feel safe coming to either of those men,” she said.
When asked if she still plans to go to January’s march, she responded, “Absolutely.”
KGW reached out to both agencies.
A spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office only said they are “looking into it”.
Lt. Steve Birr from the Salem Police Department said Sunday McArthur’s complaint was looked into by internal affairs and reviewed by the Salem city attorney’s office. They determined Officer Galusha was exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech.
Lt. Birr added Galusha was off duty when he made the comment and didn’t advertise himself as an officer of the Salem Police Department.
“When he took the oath to protect the Constitution, it didn’t mean he gave up his Constitutional First Amendment right,” he said of Galusha.
He added Officer Galusha, in his posts, “was not homophobic, racist or anything else . . . maybe it was sophomoric.”
He explained Galusha was cautioned about his social media actions in the future and said, “It’s unfortunate the woman in Chicago got her feelings hurt. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving dinner table, a bar or the internet, for a lot of people, discussing politics is not a good idea.”