Three fired over Nazi salute photo with West Virginia corrections employees

More than 30 others have been suspended without pay as officials investigate the photo that appears to show trainees making a Nazi salute in uniform.
Image; Basic Training
Members of Basic Training Class Number 18.West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety

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By Phil Helsel

Three people have been fired after a photo captured dozens of West Virginia corrections trainees making a Nazi salute in their uniforms, officials said Friday.

The two academy trainers and a cadet were not identified in a statement from the state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. Thirty-four people remain suspended without pay amid the investigation by the department and its Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"We are committed to a full and complete investigation that we will present to Governor Justice and to the public once it is finished," department Secretary Jeff Sandy said in a statement.

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The investigation centers on a photo of Basic Training Class 18. Those in it, whose faces are blurred in a copy of the photo provided by the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, are seen making the salute and there is text that reads "Hail Byrd."

An agency spokesman said that was a reference to the trainees' instructor, and that the photo was made at Glenville State College, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Jim Justice this week ordered the termination of any state employees found to be involved in the photo.

"This will not be tolerated on my watch — within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation — or within any agency of state government," he said in a statement this week.

The department said Friday that investigators had completed more than 50 interviews in the investigation, which was said to be nearing completion.

Sandy said that names and disciplinary actions were not being released because the investigation is not complete and because of personnel rules and protections.

"I cannot stress enough how this betrays the high standards and professionalism of the men and women of corrections, who successfully carry out their vital and daunting public safety mission every day and around the clock," he said.