Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.
Town officials say the resignation of firefighter James Stanley following an inappropriate comment he made at a Black Lives Matter rally and food drive on Sunday was the right move and that what he did should not reflect negatively on the town or its Fire Department.
Stanley resigned from the Fire Department on Tuesday after a cellphone video of him went viral, revealing that during the rally he said that people who overdose should be allowed to die rather than be treated with the drug Narcan, or naloxone, which can reverse the overdose.
“I think you get rid of … Narcan, and when people overdose, you let them die,” Stanley said in the video as he held a furled American flag in the center of town where BLM860, a regional Black lives Matter group, was holding a rally and food drive on Sunday. A BLM protester videotaped him with her cellphone and posted it on Facebook.
Stanley said he’d been at that location for the “Patriots for America” rally and that it wasn’t a counter-protest, although the BLM860 group insisted it was and that individuals arrived “to heckle the crowd.”
Town Council Chairman Thomas P. Gullotta said Wednesday that Stanley’s comment was “totally inappropriate” and he was glad he resigned.
“In my humble opinion, he’s an outlier,” Gullotta said.
Gullotta also said he doesn’t think Stanley’s comment will affect the Fire Department because it and the rest of the town don’t share Stanley’s opinion.
Councilman Whit Osgood called the entire matter “an unfortunate situation,” and that the response from the Fire Department, which rebuked Stanley over what he said, “was appropriate.”
“I think it was one person behaving poorly and it shouldn’t reflect on the Fire Department or the rest of the town,” Osgood said.
Town Manager Richard J. Johnson echoed that sentiment, saying the matter involved the actions of one individual and is “not a reflection of our outstanding fire service men and women.”
On Tuesday, in a Facebook message to a Journal Inquirer reporter, Stanley issued an apology.
“I would like to apologize for my comment regarding Narcan on May 2nd, it was insensitive and inappropriate. I too have suffered loss to substance addiction and understand how hurtful my words were,” he said.
Despite the apology, Stanley, a volunteer with the Fire Department for five years, resigned from the Fire Department Tuesday, Fire Chief Michael Thurz announced Wednesday.
Thurz also stressed that Glastonbury firefighters are not licensed to administer Narcan, that only Glastonbury EMS can do that.
Thurz also issued a prepared statement to the media about Stanley’s comment about Narcan and its ripple effect on the Fire Department, calling Stanley’s words “inappropriate and insensitive,” and saying it “violates the core opinions, values, and dignity” of the Fire Department. He also stressed that Stanley had been at the BLM rally on his personal time.
“The statement of banning naloxone (Narcan) and letting those who battle addiction succumb to their illness is not only disturbing, but inexcusable,” the chief said. “This individual’s actions have blemished the organization and the department wishes to express its sincerest apologies to the community for this unacceptable event.”
He said the Fire Department’s mission “is to protect life and property within the Glastonbury community. We accomplish this through our core values of commitment, respect, and integrity and we ask that our members uphold these principles and practice the highest level of professionalism and behavior at all times. The statement made this past Sunday failed this mission and the values our collective members regard so highly and the individual has since resigned.”
He also said that everyone at the Fire Department was “saddened that one individual’s comments can reflect so poorly on the organization overall, and we recognize the need to reassure the community that they can be confident and trust in their Fire Department.”
The controversy over Stanley’s comment about Narcan created a firestorm on social media.
One of the first Facebook responses came from Linda Ivelisse Correa-Ojeda, who took the video of Stanley on Sunday. She wrote, “My cousin died of a heroin overdose. That’s not cool! How can I trust a firefighter that protests a food drive and says he wants to let people die?!?”
Of Stanley’s resignation, Correa-Ojeda said Wednesday that she was “shocked” because it seemed to her that the Fire Department was going to stand by him. She also said she has no resentment toward the Fire Department itself and may try to organize a food drive with the department in the future.
“We hope the small minority of James Stanley’s that exist amongst first responders look to work in a different role instead,” she said.
Adam covers the towns of Enfield and Suffield. For more updates, follow Adam on Twitter: @AHushinJI and Facebook: Adam Hushin.
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