Ky. EMS official removed for post wishing 'deadly force' on officers enforcing social distancing
Gov. Andy Beshear removed Shelbyville Paramedic Robbie Smither from the state's Board of Emergency Medical Services after his comments on an arrest at a grocery store
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear has removed a member of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services whom he said “publicly promoted violent action against law enforcement” on social media.
In an executive order signed April 30, Beshear removed Robbie Smither, a Shelbyville paramedic, from the board. Former Gov. Matt Bevin had appointed Smither to the board in 2018 to serve a term expiring September 19, 2021.
In his order, Beshear said Smither made a Facebook post on April 28 that was “sufficient cause to remove him from a board that oversees the certification of and establishes standards for the training of emergency medical first responders.”
The removal took effect immediately. On the board, Smither represented certified emergency medical technicians or licensed paramedics.
WHAS11 TV in Louisville last week reported that Smither, in a Facebook post, criticized the arrest of Kendra Burnett, 37, for breaking a mandated quarantine for COVID-19.
Burnett was arrested by Louisville police at a downtown Kroger store and charged with wanton endangerment on April 27 after police say she tested positive for the virus and violated a court order to stay home.
Police said the Jefferson County Attorney’s office had said Burnett refused to self-quarantine at least three times. They also said she kicked out the taillight of a car and damaged its handle while in custody. She was charged with wanton endangerment in the first degree, contempt of a court libel/slander resistance to order and criminal mischief in the second degree.
“This is tyranny,” Smither posted. “I wish this lady would have used deadly force against these tyrants and then a jury nullify the case.”
The post was taken down the next day, WHAS said.
Mike Poynter, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services, said in an email Monday that the agency “recently became aware of a Facebook post made by one of our former board members that was of concern to many.”
“While we certainly believe in the protection of freedom of speech, we cannot comment on the situation; however, we can assure you that KBEMS does not, and will not, condone or support any speech or actions which incite or promote violence, hate or discrimination,” Poynter said.
He did not respond to the question of whether he or anyone on the board recommended to the governor Smither’s removal.
Smither could not be reached for comment Monday but he told WHAS11 last week that it was not his intent to promote violence.
“I believe people have the right to their own personal liberties, this is not a matter of anti-law enforcement,” he said. “This is me as a citizen speaking in a public forum.”
Smither’s Facebook posts also have been supportive of Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron for criticizing Beshear on First Amendment issues during the coronvirus pandemic, particularly the governor’s ban on mass gatherings at churches and other places.
Smither made an unsuccessful bid for Shelby County magistrate in 2018.
©2020 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)