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State worker faces police probe after tweet suggesting Howell should burn

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A state employee will be disciplined by her department and is under investigation by police for a viral tweet in late May that appeared to encourage people to burn Howell a few days before a police brutality protest.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services employee wrote from a since-deleted Twitter account called @WowDamia that “the first city to burn in michigan should be Howell, all in favor say I.”

The tweet and later screenshots of the post were widely shared ahead of a June 4 peaceful protest in Howell in honor of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed during an arrest by Minneapolis police in late May. 

A Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman said the state's action against the employee is pending and wouldn't release the worker's name. 

“An investigation was conducted and has been completed," said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. "Disciplinary action is being taken.”

The Howell Police Department has investigated the social media comment and forwarded its findings this week to the Livingston County prosecutor’s office. 

"We looked at a person who was making threats against our city," Howell Police Chief Scott Mannor said Friday, noting that the investigation is focused on the initial post by the state employee.

Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Valliencourt said the case has been sent back to the police department for additional investigation. 

Peaceful protests were held earlier this month in the city, which has a history of Ku Klux Klan activity. 

Former Klan Grand Dragon Robert Miles lived in Cohoctah Township, just north of Howell, where he held KKK rallies and burned crosses. 

In 1971, Miles and four associates were convicted of planning the bombing of school buses for court-ordered desegregation in Pontiac. He was convicted two years later of conspiring to tar and feather a Willow Run high school principal who supported desegregation. Miles spent six years in federal prison for the crimes, according to United Press International.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com