On May 25, a Minnesota man named George Floyd died in police custody in a harrowing incident that was captured on video and shared on social media. The video showed a Minneapolis police officer identified as Derek Chauvin pinning his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for several minutes during the arrest. Floyd pleaded with him to stop, saying he couldn’t breathe. He eventually went silent as people begged Chauvin and the other three officers present to check on him. A short time after, Floyd was pronounced dead.
People have taken to social media to express shock and outrage at the police actions, and vigils in the streets this week turned into protests.
Dave Hollenbeck, a Washington state high school wrestling coach, had a different message to share. He posted a photo to Facebook of himself on the ground with a knee in the back of his neck, smiling and showing the camera a thumbs up. He added the caption: “This is for all the race baiters and people that don’t What they’re talking about when they’re saying that this could kill you.”
He then shared the image again with the caption: “Not dead yet I’m doing this for [our] police officers the media is a race baiting machine and I’m tired of it I’m going to speak out every time if you don’t like that I’m sorry but I love All people.. Wake up America.”
The Facebook post is no longer available, but a screenshot of it is available on reporter Michael Spears’ Twitter account:
“Not dead yet”: @BethelSD says it’s investigating this social media post of a first-year wrestling coach at Bethel High School who’s pictured with a knee pressed into his neck. #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/sOcVCoSjoJ
— Michael Spears (@MichaelKIRO7) May 27, 2020
Spears of KIRO 7 Seattle posted an interview with Hollenbeck on the evening of May 27 in which the wrestling coach defended his post:
— Michael Spears (@MichaelKIRO7) May 28, 2020
In the video, he says: “I did not tell any lies. I showed that I was okay from a knee on my neck. That is it. I did not say anything racist, it maybe was insensitive at the time and I didn’t think that far ahead as in to where this was gonna go. I just knew that something needed to be said. The media was pushing an agenda.”
The High School Where Hollenbeck Worked Is Investigating the Post
Hollenbeck’s Twitter account indicates that he works as a wrestling coach at Bethel High School in Spanaway, Washington, just south of Seattle. Many people contacted the school to let them know about the existence of the Facebook post. Doug Boyles, a Bethel School District spokesperson, told KIRO 7 in an email: “We are investigating the post. Dave Hollenbeck is not a teacher. This was his first year as a wrestling coach at Bethel High School. As wrestling season is over, he is not working for us right now.”
The Bethel School District also sent out an email to the entire district, according to Facebook posts. The email states that the post “was made on a personal Facebook page and the district is currently investigating.” It doesn’t name Hollenbeck but says the district “takes issues like this very seriously.” The email also linked to the school district’s social media policy for staff.
Here’s a screenshot of the email:
Heavy reached out to Hollenbeck but did not immediately hear back.
Hollenbeck Came Under Fire on Social Media for His Facebook Post
Terrible human beings out there https://t.co/apAy2HpOex
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) May 28, 2020
Many people took to social media to share screenshots of the Facebook post and express their outrage. Some of the posts also tagged the Bethel School District or its superintendent, Tom Seigel. One post said: “[Tom Seigel] Good day, sir. Are you aware that one of your employees, Dave Hollenbeck, is a racist who mocks victims of police brutality? A vile person like this has no business teaching children every day.”
Another post said: “Hey [WWE] apparently you had this guy Dave Hollenbeck work for you guys for [WWE 205]. I hope you guys have the morals to never let him work for you again. And that goes dub for you [Impact Wrestling, AE Wrestling, Ring of Honor].”
One person wrote: “If I was a parent of one of his students I would pull my child out of his class immediately. Dave Hollenbeck should not be teaching wrestling if he does not know that a knee in the neck will kill someone. The school needs to sack him now and he should never be allowed to teach.”