25-year veteran’s August social media comments draw ire on eve of anti-Trump rally
By John Flynn
A Sacramento fire engineer who suggested using “illegal immigrants” as “target practice” in Facebook posts from August took them down after being contacted by SN&R.
On Friday, SN&R received screenshots of posts from a Facebook user named Don Martin that suggested violence against undocumented immigrants coming into America and compared post-election “riots in the streets” to “Planet of the Apes.” He also shared a post by the Prepare To Take America Back page that asked, “If war came to American soil, would you fight?”, to which Martin added, “I would argue that it already arrived!”
A Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District employee who answered the phone on Friday confirmed Martin’s employ. In an email exchange with SN&R, SMFD Capt. Michelle Eidam declined to say whether Martin works for the district, but called the Facebook comments unfortunate.
“The political views or personal statements made by our employees should not be construed to be those of Metro Fire,” she wrote. “Nonetheless, these comments are regrettable.”
While Eidam added that the district was investigating whether an employee posted the Facebook statements in question, she said she would be unable to reveal the outcome of that investigation due to employees’ privacy rights.
“Metro Fire does not condone statements which may be perceived as threatening or discriminatory towards members of the public we serve,” Eidam wrote.
According to Transparent California, a Donald Martin Jr. made $235,856 in total pay and benefits as an SMFD fire engineer in 2015.
The screenshots were originally brought to the attention of SN&R on a Facebook page advertising an anti-Trump rally on Friday.
“Thought everyone might like to know the mentality at Sac Metro Fire, at least with this man, Don Martin,” a Facebook user named Staci Danielle wrote. “We are ‘apes’ to him. Let’s all turn up and show him & others who we are tonight!”
The Friday rally drew hundreds who marched from the state Capitol across Tower Bridge to protest the nativist positions held by President-elect Donald Trump.
Since being contacted, the Facebook user has deleted the post about using “illegal immigrants” as “target practice.” The “Planet of the Apes” post has also been deleted, though that may have happened before the account was contacted. The comment about a war on American soil remains up.
The Facebook user has yet to respond to SN&R.
The current profile picture of the Facebook page shows a man clad in what appears to be a formal firefighter’s uniform. An earlier profile picture matches the current profile picture of a LinkedIn user also named Don Martin. This Don Martin lists that he is a realtor and has been a fire engineer with the SMFD for the last 25 years.
The Facebook profile posted an ad for a realtor also named Don Martin that used the same LinkedIn profile picture.
When SN&R emailed the address listed for the realtor Don Martin, the person answering from the account said they were “not interested” in an interview and did not give permission to print the name they signed the emails with. The person did not confirm or deny that they operated the Facebook account or that they worked for the fire department.
“Your approach gives me pause given the blindness of your motives, subject, and my unfamiliarity with you,” the email read.
A recent audit showed that 72 percent of the city of Sacramento’s sworn firefighters are white. Similar figures weren’t immediately available for SMFD, which covers much of the unincorporated county through a union of 16 smaller fire departments. The pictures of Don Martin are of a white man.
It is possible that the Don Martin running the Facebook page did not mean to suggest literal violence, as he also shared a post quoting Martin Luther King Jr.:
Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from its original version, which incorrectly stated that Capt. Eidam confirmed Martin’s employment, rather than a different employee. SN&R regrets the error.