Terry King is a candidate in the Alpena County sheriff’s race who is facing criticism for violent and homophobic text messages that he sent on a county-owned phone in 2013 when he was employed as an undersheriff. In the messages to a family member, which BTL obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, King shows a picture of two men holding hands and asks, “where is my fricken gun” and follows up with a message that says “bang bang.”
The messages were sent at a wedding in St. Joseph County, and in conversation King continued not only to insult the LGBTQ couple present but went on to negatively comment about the appearance of other wedding guests, food and more. The Alpena News reported that the local community has marched in protest of King’s candidacy after the text messages were made public.
Steven Kieliszewski is Alpena County’s current sheriff and King’s challenger in the upcoming primary when the two Republican candidates are set to square off on Aug. 4. Kieliszewski called the messages “disappointing.”
“And, quite honestly, it shocked the hell out of me when I read it. It was disappointing to see that, that the number two person in charge of the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office was stating that kind of stuff,” Kielisszewski said. “It was just another point, if you will, that added [to the fact that] letting him go was the right decision.”
King resigned from his 14-year position as undersheriff in June 2019 after Kieliszewski told him that it was his intention to terminate him because of this incident coupled with his “obstruction of another case.”
“Where it all started was the complaint of a person with a gun at one of our elementary schools, and we had police officers that arrived on scene shortly after the complaint was called into central dispatch and the suspect wasn’t around. So the city PD was conducting an investigation for several days and at some point in time, I got word that the former undersheriff, supposedly, had sent text messages to the husband of the witness that the witness should not take a polygraph,” Kieliszewski said. “… That happened in March of 2018, and almost a year to the date, in April of 2019 is when I got information that, in fact, a text message was sent.”
King was then put on administrative leave, an investigation was conducted and his work cellphone was seized.
“The cell phone is full of several text messages, and one of the individuals who was assisting me with the investigation came across that particular text messaging between him and another family member,” Kieliszewski said.
The Detroit Free Press reports that King “subsequently filed a whistleblower lawsuit” after his resignation.