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Over 30 West Virginia Prison Guard Trainees Fired Over Nazi Salute Photo

(JTA) — More than 30 West Virginia correctional academy trainees who were seen giving a Nazi salute in a class photo will be fired.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that he has approved the recommendations from a report by state investigators calling for the dismissal of the correctional officer trainees who participated in the photo. According to the report, the trainees regularly gave the Nazi salute “as a sign of respect” for their instructor in the weeks prior to the release of the photo, The Associated Press reported.

The photo of dozens of participants in the basic training class making the Nazi salute reads “Hail Byrd!” at the top, a reference to their correctional academy instructor, Karrie Byrd.

Two correctional academy trainers and a cadet from the class shown in the picture were fired when the photo came to light in early December.

Byrd told investigators that she was unaware of the “historical or racial implications of the gesture” and said it was “simply a greeting,” according to the report, NBC News reported. Other sources for the report contradicted her statements.

“The investigation disclosed that she encouraged it, reveled in it, and at times reciprocated the gesture,” the report said.

Justice said in a statement Monday that “this act needed to result in real consequences – terminations and dismissals.”

“This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of state government,” he said.

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