CO who mocked Buffalo shooting victims retires
The Attica Correctional Facility CO was facing a disciplinary hearing for sharing a "vile posting" days after the Tops Markets mass shooting
By Stephen T. Watson
The Buffalo News, N.Y.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A state corrections officer who was suspended after mocking the victims of the Tops Markets massacre in an online post has retired from his job.
Gregory C. Foster II, a guard at the Attica Correctional Facility, was placed on unpaid leave and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced it would seek to terminate Foster for sharing the crude social media meme.
Instead, as he awaited a disciplinary hearing, Foster agreed to retire, the department told The Buffalo News this week.
"The comments made by Correction Officer Gregory Foster II are despicable, stand in violation of multiple department rules and will not be tolerated. The vile posting does not represent the morals and values of the thousands of staff members in the department," the department said in a statement.
The offensive meme showed a photo of a Tops Markets above the words, "Clean up on aisle 3, no wait 4, also on 7, 9, 12 and 13."
Foster punctuated the meme with the comment, "Too soon? This should weed out some FB friends," followed by a laughing emoji.
He shared the meme days after the May 14 attack, when an avowed white supremacist is accused of driving more than 200 miles from the Southern Tier to Buffalo to kill as many Black people as possible. Ten people died and three others were injured in the supermarket attack.
The meme spurred outrage online, especially as it became apparent the person who shared it was a corrections officer, and it drew national attention.
On May 17, DOCCS said it had suspended Foster without pay, was launching an investigation and would seek further discipline of department employees who engaged with the post.
State lawmakers urged the department to act swiftly.
"If we are going to root out hate and bigotry in all forms, Greg Foster can no longer be allowed to serve in this role and in the department. In addition, any DOCCS correction officer who engaged with Mr. Foster's post, or any officer who has committed such despicable behavior, must also face consequences,"
Assemblyman Kenny Burgos, D-Bronx, and State Sen. Julia Salazar, D-Brooklyn and chair of the Senate Committee on Crime and Correction, wrote May 19 to Anthony Annucci, the department's acting commissioner.
Payroll records show Foster, who joined the department in 1997, earned $185,482 in 2020. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
His retirement, which has not been previously reported, took effect June 16.
The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association declined to comment on Foster's retirement but pointed a reporter to the statement the union released following his suspension.
"Simply put, hateful rhetoric has no place in our organization. As a statewide entity representing individuals from across all ethnicities, genders, races and backgrounds, we pride ourselves on being engrained in the fabric of our respective communities through volunteerism and participation in community efforts to better the lives of our neighbors," union President Michael Powers said then.
In a May 17 email to union members, the NYSCOPBA executive board condemned the original, "obscene" post and those who responded with laughing emoji and predicted they would face "swift discipline," according to an image shared on Facebook.
"As your union, we will ensure you receive your due process rights all the way through to the bitter end, but we do not support the actions that brought you to this point," the board wrote.
The corrections department said it had started disciplinary proceedings against five other employees. Two have accepted their punishment, which the department did not reveal, and the process involving three others continues.
In response to complaints from the public, the Cheektowaga Police Department is looking into whether one of its part-time employees also engaged with the offensive meme, Chief Brian Gould said, an investigation that remains open.
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