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Indiana Freshman Policeman Fired After Neo Nazi Ties Exposed

Indiana Police Nazi.jpeg

Lafayette police on Saturday fired a recently hired officer less than 24 hours after he was accused to having ties to racist posts made on a fascist web forum.

Police Chief Pat Flannelly said Officer Joseph Zacharek, hired in June, was called into the police station Friday night after claims started showing up on social media that he was linked to Iron March, a neo-Nazi forum disbanded in 2017 but that had its database exposed on the internet in late 2019.

Flannelly said that after LPD internal affairs detectives found the social media tip “plausible and credible,” they confronted Zacharek about the claims. Flannelly said Zacharek admitted that the comments were his.

Flannelly said Zacharek was fired, as of noon Saturday.

The chief also said the fact that Zacharek’s posts never showed up on LPD’s background checks would force the department to review its processes.

“I know the question everyone will have is, how does something like this get missed in a background investigation,” Flannelly said. “How is it possible and how do we prevent this from ever happening again? I’m not going to sugar-coat this. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility. We missed it.”

Attempts to reach Zacharek were not successful Saturday.

Friday night, Lafayette police acknowledged on social media that they were aware of accusations that Zacharek was among Iron Watch members revealed by the data dump and that he’d made racist posts dating to 2016, including questioning “the vile ‘culture’ of the African and learned that everything I had been taught on race had been a flimsy fabrication which was not supported by real world evidence.”

The bio at Iron Watch, shown by the site ironwatch.exposed and attributed to him, also claims an interest “in (National Socialist) economics as a way of throwing off the chains of usury and Jewish owned banking.”

“We saw the information come over our Twitter feed last night and launched an immediate investigation,” Flannelly said Saturday.

Zacharek was one of three new officers announced by the department in June. A release from that time said Zacharek was originally from Edwards, New York, attended Penn State University and served three years as a tank crewman in the U.S. Army. “He visited Lafayette and fell in love with the community,” the department wrote at the time.

In data posted by the site IronWatch.Exposed, a user going by Panzerleiter on Iron Watch was created by someone with a Google mail account under Zacharek’s name. The bio for the user named Panzerleiter at Iron Watch also claimed to be a tank crewman in the U.S. Army who registered in upstate New York. Panzer is a German tank. Leiter, in German, means leader or chief or conductor.

Lt. Matt Gard, public information officer with LPD, said Saturday that Zacharek was still going through training and had not been assigned yet to patrol Lafayette streets. Flannelly said Saturday that Zacharek had not had contact in uniform with the Lafayette public.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white nationalist and other hate groups, called Iron March “an influential gathering place for young neo-Nazis and neo-fascists who eyed the Western world with intentions of triggering race war on a global scale” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Iron Watch had 1,653 users who “came to Iron March to debate what they believed to be universal truths about fascism, according to a 2016 podcast that featured one of the site’s founders and another contributing member.”

The chief said LPD’s background checks include discussions with friends and family, past employers, social media history and psychological profiles that include questions Flannelly said were designed to root out ties to hate groups and other questionable affiliations.

“So we’re appreciative of whoever did that research, however they came across it,” he said. “We would have never hired him in the first place if we’d uncovered that in the background investigation.”

Flannelly said he did’t think the hire was a deliberate attempt by a neo-Nazi group to infiltrate the LPD.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” Flannelly said. “But in the last six months, I’ve heard people saying those things and post things like that publicly, and I’ve always very confident that our process would catch that. And it didn’t. … We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and deal directly with our screening process. This is unacceptable.”