Springfield NAACP threats connected with fired firefighter

Denise Williams, president of the Springfield NAACP. Bill Lackey/Staff

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Denise Williams, president of the Springfield NAACP. Bill Lackey/Staff

A threatening letter sent to the Springfield NAACP president earlier this week has prompted an investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The letter contained “threats of violence and racial epithets,” in response to comment made by NAACP President Denise Williams to the media, Springfield officials said.

RELATED: Ex-Springfield firefighter shared post with racial slur

The letter was mailed to the chapter office and received about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, a police report says. The contents of the letter threatened harm to unnamed individuals in response to comments Williams made to the media, it says.

Williams immediately reported the letter to Springfield police and it was packaged as evidence, Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said. It was sent to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in London, Graf said.

“It will be checked forensically in just about every way you can think of,” Graf said.

The division is taking the investigation seriously, he said.

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“This is despicable,” Graf said. “This is not anything we want that’s representative of Springfield or this community. I can tell you the letter with the threats is criminal in nature and we’re going to pursue everything we can to try to find out who did this and make sure justice is served.”

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said the letter was related to an incident earlier this month in which a Springfield firefighter was fired due to a racially insensitive Facebook post.

Bradley Baugh, 39, served with the Springfield Fire Division for a just a few weeks before he was fired on March 9. Baugh had been a city employee since 2007 in the street maintenance department.

A screen shot of the post obtained through a public records request from the Springfield Fire Division appears to show Baugh shared a meme on March 3 that uses a racial slur.

Copeland said the letter mailed to the NAACP referred to that incident.

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“This does not represent the city of Springfield,” Copeland said of the letter. “We want to send that message as clearly as possible.”

The city is taking the issue seriously, he said. It made no sense for someone to send a letter to the NAACP since the city was responsible for firing Baugh — a decision the city defends, Copeland said.

“We believe in what we did and we’re happy to defend it,” he said.

Anyone who knows anything about the letter or the person who sent it is asked to contact the police division or the NAACP, Graf said.

Williams didn’t expect the outreach she’s received from the community since receiving the threat, she said.

“It was truly disturbing, not just for me, but the community,” Williams said. “I’m so thankful to God that we are together. We have bridged this divide, but we still have a lot of work to do.”


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