A Knoxville-based state trooper who is a Sunni Muslim contends he lost his job after being labeled a potential Jihadist.
Now, a federal judge is giving the green light to a trial in U.S. District Court in a religious discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of fired Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper De’Ossie Dingus against the state Department of Safety.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell has set a Nov. 17 trial date after ruling a recorded conversation between a military liaison and a Department of Safety commander is proof on its face the agency fired Dingus based on an unsupported conclusion Dingus was ripe to be “turned” into a terrorist.
The 2010 firing of Dingus has its roots in a November 2009 training session for troopers by Department of Homeland Security military liaison Maj. Kevin Taylor. The topic was supposed to be “weapons of mass destruction,” but Dingus said a video shown during the training “detailed the radicalization of three young boys by their father at a Madrassa (Islamic religious school) in Pakistan,” Campbell’s ruling states.
After class, Dingus registered a complaint with Taylor and, later, THP. Taylor leveled his own complaint in which he alleged Dingus had been belligerent and disruptive during the class and confrontational after it. The class came just a few days before a Muslim soldier opened fire on his comrades at Fort Hood in Texas, a fact Taylor would later note.
Sgt. Ron Crockarell with the safety department’s Office of Professional Responsibility was assigned to investigate.
All 35 troopers in the class denied Dingus was disruptive or confrontational either before or after class. A slew of Dingus’ co-workers told Crockarell that Dingus was a pleasant man and hard-worker who never mentioned his faith, Campbell wrote.
But Taylor, who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan, insisted in a recorded interview with Crockarell that Dingus was one upset away from being a prime target for conversion into a terrorist.
“I’ve seen that type of mentality before,” Taylor said. “I don’t get scared all that often (but) I mean, if the right person pushed the right buttons with him, because in his belief system … his life means nothing as long as it’s in the pursuit of Ali (sic).”