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North Charleston cop in Confederate Flag boxers says he was fired for being white

Officer Dildine

A former North Charleston police officer says he was fired for being white after he posted a photo of himself in nothing but Confederate Flag boxers on his Facebook page.

Shannon Dildine posted the photo five days after the racially motivated mass shooting at Emanuel AME.

In a federal lawsuit, Dildine claims he was on vacation at the time of the Emanuel AME shooting and of the ensuing debate over the flag, but did not know there were pictures of the accused shooter Dylann Roof draped in the Confederate Flag.

Dildine says in the filing he was also unaware North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey had voiced his support of removing the Confederate Flag from Statehouse grounds.

Instead, Dildine claims he posted the picture "to diffuse a debate that two of his Facebook friends were having over the Confederate flag issue. Plaintiff posted the picture under an alias name on his private Facebook account and did not in any way associate himself or the shorts with the City of North Charleston."

Dildine says in a meeting the day after the photo was posted, he met with Capt. Stephens, Deputy Chief Deckard, Deputy Chief Reggie Burgess, and Julie Elmore, the Special Assistant to the Mayor.

He says in that discussion they talked about a photo Burgess posted a week earlier with members of the Black Lives Matter movement that had been published in a newspaper.

A week later, Dildine was fired and officials told him it was because of the Confederate Flag underwear picture.

Dildine argues that his termination while Burgess' employment continued is evidence of discrimination in the department and in the city's government. Dildine says his termination was an instance of racial discrimination.

"Being born and raised in the Southern United States, (Dildine) did not believe the Confederate flag was a symbol of hate. Instead, he believed it symbolized opposition to bigger or intrusive government," the filing reads.

His attorney, Chris Potts, says Dildine is not looking for city officials to fire Burgess. He only wanted to use it as a comparison between his actions and Burgess'. Dildine says he doesn't think Burgess was ever reprimanded for the publicly shared photo of him with Black Lives Matter.

"When other races engage in similar conduct [as posting a politically driven picture on private social media pages], minorities are treated better than Caucasians," Potts said.

Potts said this is a First Amendment case and that Dildine's posts on Facebook made on a page using an alias during his personal time should not weigh on his employment.

Potts said Dildins' freedom of speech is not attached to his role as a police officer. Still, Potts says he wasn't sure if Dildine's personal page made any mention of being a police officer.

Dildine joined the North Charleston police department in 1996.

The NAACP's Joe Darby called the lawsuit ludicrous. He said firing Dildine was the right decision.

"He has a perfect right to express his political beliefs," Darby said. "Working for the North Charleston Police Department, however, is not a right. That's a bit of a privilege when you're hired."

When shown the photos by ABC News 4, several people in Charleston Friday said it probably wasn't the smartest decision by Dildine but they didn't think he should be fired.

"There's nothing wrong with those underwear, or swimsuit - whatever it is," Tyler Cornett said Friday. "That flag stood for something long before it was made into a controversy today so I don't see a problem with it."

"In today's climate, probably not the smartest move to make based on the tensions going on right now," Leanna Furey of Fairfax, Virginia said. "As far as him being fired, I don't know if I would go to that extreme."

"If you're one of our upstanding law officers in this city then you should definitely take into account what you're doing, what you're saying, on-duty or off-duty, and how it affects everybody else," Rodney Goodson of North Charleston said.

The City of North Charleston has not responded to requests for comment. The suit was filed June 6, 2016.

"If he was just a citizen on the street and was not in an official capacity, probably would not have been a problem," Furey said. "He is representing the police department and law enforcement authority so not a smart move but don't believe he should have been fired for something like that."

The suit also compares the image to a that includes North Charleston Deputy Chief Reggie Burgess. He's pictured with members of Black Lives Matter Charleston.

Dildine's attorney argued the image is also a representation of political beliefs. He claimed Burgess was treated differently in this case because of his race.

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