Lawsuit: Former deputy subjected to racism, abuse

LARAMIE — A former Albany County Sheriff ’s deputy is suing a longtime colleague alleging a years-long pattern of racial abuse and discrimination. 

Jamin Johnson, an Albany County man who was a deputy for a decade here from 2007-2017, filed a lawsuit in federal District Court this week claiming his supervisor, Sgt. Christian Handley, “relentlessly demeaned Mr. Johnson with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Mr. Johnson’s wife and children.” 

Handley, who also is no longer with the sheriff’s office, is the sole defendant named in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, including loss of wages and benefits, emotional distress and punitive damages. 

The alleged behavior by Handley displayed “racism, bigotry and discrimination in the workplace (that) almost defies belief,” the lawsuit states. 

The abuse ultimately led to Johnson’s resignation Aug. 2, 2017. 

Continuing at the sheriff ’s office at the time “would have meant enduring more racism, more bigotry and more discrimination, none of which was tolerable,” the lawsuit claims. 

While Johnson said he was the focus of Handley’s alleged racial abuse since beginning at the ACSO, Handley was promoted through the ranks ahead of him, which put Handley in a supervisory role over Johnson. 

The pair worked together as patrol deputies from 2011-14, during which time “Mr. Handley began to engage in overt and abhorrent racism against Mr. Johnson, the only Black officer at the ACSO,” the lawsuit says. That includes “routinely” being called the n-word and a “jigaboo,” something Handley also allegedly did toward other Black people in the community. 

When Handley was promoted in 2014 and became Johnson’s supervisor, his “racism became even more blatant,” the lawsuit claims. 

“For example, Mr. Johnson once stopped several Black people in a vehicle. Mr. Handley arrived at the stop as the supervising officer only to ask, ‘What did these (n-words) do?’ Comments like these were routine.” 

One of the last straws came a couple months before Johnson resigned in June 2017 in a common area at the sheriff ’s office. 

“Mr. Handley asked whether Mr. Johnson had ever had sex with a Black woman,” the lawsuit says. “Taken aback, Mr. Johnson said nothing. Mr. Handley followed up: ‘Because that would be nasty. That is like having sex with a dog.’” 

The lawsuit also alleges Handley once, in describing an arrest he made the night before, said that “I stopped a car full of (n-words).” 

When he saw Johnson was in the room, he added, “‘You’re not one of them, but some Black people are just (n-words).’” 

Another claim is that once while Johnson was outside walking with his family, Handley drove by them and yelled a racial slur. 

Johnson was ultimately forced to resign after Handley, as his supervisor, continued to target him and other top-level administrators at the sheriff ’s office wouldn’t intervene, the lawsuit says. 

It wasn’t until Sheriff Aaron Appelhans, Wyoming’s first Black sheriff, was appointed last year that an investigation into Handley’s conduct was initiated. Handley was terminated from the ACSO soon after. 

Handley is being represented by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, which did not respond to a request for comment before the Boomerang’s press time.

 He has 60 days from Jan. 18 to file a reply to the lawsuit.