SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Sheriff Brian BeGole found an unwelcome surprise when he tried to log onto Facebook this week — the social media platform announced he had passed away, and his page had been “memorialized.”
BeGole was apparently locked out of his personal Facebook page and the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page after an unknown person reported to Facebook that BeGole had died. How the individual(s) responsible managed to do so is unclear.
Conspiracy theories are flying around on various local social media pages, with BeGole’s wife Tammy Force stating he had been “locked out of his account,” and blaming people online who post “lies” on social media. It is unknown at this point who falsely reported BeGole’s alleged demise.
“Brian BeGole is very much alive,” Force wrote in a social media post. “Being his wife I will respond because he is locked out of his account. The Sheriff’s Office is looking into who made the request to memorialize his account. This person never once thought about our children and how they would take this information.”
BeGole did not respond to requests for comment about the situation. Posts on the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page have continued, although it is unclear how many people are able to post to the page.
Force claimed several of the couple’s children called her to find out if BeGole had passed away.
“He also was locked out of the Sheriff’s account and could miss very critical and life saving information,” Force continued. “We have not received any donations for his death, as he is alive.”
Facebook’s rules are somewhat confusing on this issue. When an individual passes away, immediate family members can request to have their loved one’s page memorialized. When this happens, the account cannot be accessed.
It may be somewhat difficult for BeGole to get the account unlocked, according to Facebook’s terms of service. It is likely BeGole will regain access to his account when he submits a request to Facebook, though the process could take some time.
Numerous local social media sites have had an ongoing feud with the Sheriff’s Office that has become bitter and contentious in the last several weeks, with accusations of lies and personal smears being alleged by all parties.
One of the local pages took issue with one Sheriff’s Office employee in particular, and began questioning that individual’s qualifications and training, which came under scrutiny during a recent murder trial in 35th Circuit Court.
That page was shut down for a brief period, and one of the administrators of the page claimed it was shut down as the result of a coordinated effort by county and Sheriff’s Office employees to mass-report the page, triggering an automatic review by Facebook.
That page administrator declined to comment further.
Following Doran Duncan’s murder conviction Aug. 6 on all six charges he faced for causing the May 2018 death of George Ramos, the Sheriff’s Office took the opportunity to go on a public relations offensive, issuing a press release to dozens of media outlets and contacting numerous TV stations, which The Argus-Press also published.
“The Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office were always confident that our actions were appropriate,” BeGole wrote in a Facebook post Aug. 2, immediately following the verdict. “It is shameful to know that the individuals operating several social media sites and hiding themselves behind anonymity used this tragedy as an opportunity for political gain and to promote their own personal agenda. Their personal character attacks against the Sheriff’s Office and devoted members of our staff are extremely deceitful, misleading, and in many cases, outright lies.”
BeGole also granted interviews to at least three TV stations in the period following the trial, claiming that local Facebook pages cross the line from free speech to criminal activity. BeGole said the pages were posting false information about himself and Sheriff’s Office employees, and claimed that members of his staff had even received death threats. BeGole did not state in the interviews what information posted on social media was false, or who allegedly made the threats toward his staff.