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Three police officers fired after they are caught using 'hate-filled speech,' chief says
Published Monday, June 29, 2020 7:21AM EDT
Police tape is seen in this file photo. (Kat Wilcox / Pexels)
Three Wilmington, N.C. police officers have been fired after they were heard on video spewing "hate-filled speech" and referring "to Black people as the N-word," Police Chief Donny Williams said Wednesday.
The officers were identified as Officer James Gilmore, Corporal Jesse Moore II and Officer Kevin Piner. According to a report that details the findings of an internal investigation, Piner and Moore also criticized Williams, who is Black. Piner and Gilmore criticized other Black police officers in the department.
At one point, according to the report, Officer Piner said he was "ready" for a civil war and talked about "slaughtering" Black people, referring to them by using the n-word.
"I can't wait," he said. "God, I can't wait."
Each officer was a veteran of the department, having been hired in the late 1990s, according to employment records released by the city.
The firing of the officers in Wilmington -- a coastal city about 80 miles north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina -- comes amid a nationwide reckoning over race and policing following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.
In a statement Wednesday, Williams said the Wilmington officers' comments were "brutally offensive and deserved immediate action."
"This is the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career," Williams said. "We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this country."
Williams said he has recommended that none of the three officers be eligible for rehiring in Wilmington. He said he would notify the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission to determine whether the officers can maintain certification to practice law enforcement in the state.
The department also will consult with the district attorney's office about this case to determine if crimes were committed by the officers, Williams said in the internal investigation documents, and would review the cases the officers had charged to see if there was any bias toward the offenders.
Additionally, the police department is asking the courts to decide whether some or all of the video should be released.
CNN has reached out to the union representing the police department for comment. Attempts to reach each officer were unsuccessful.
'PUT 'EM BACK ABOUT FOUR OR FIVE GENERATIONS'
The video was discovered on June 4 during a monthly video review, according to the internal investigation report. The footage, captured by Piner's in-vehicle dashboard camera, was classified as an "accidental activation," the report says.
About 46 minutes into the nearly two-hour-long video, Piner is heard speaking with Gilmore, who has pulled his vehicle up beside Piner's.
The two officers discuss recent Black Lives Matter protests, and Piner says that the department's only concern is "kneeling down with the Black folks." Gilmore also describes a video he saw about White people "bowing down on their knees and 'worshipping Blacks,'" the report says.
"How many times have I told you it's almost like they think they're their own god?" Gilmore said, according to the report.
The two officers criticized the police department's response to Wilmington protests and made derogatory comments about some of their fellow officers.
Later, Piner is heard answering a phone call from Moore, who told Piner about a woman he arrested the day before, referring to her with the N-word, the report says.
At one point, Moore said that "she needed a bullet in her head right then and move on. Let's move the body out of the way and keep going."
Piner later said that he believed a civil war was coming, adding he was going to buy a new assault rifle. He felt martial law would be declared and said, "we are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them f***ing (N-words). I can't wait," according to the report.
Moore said he wouldn't do that, but Piner said he felt a civil war was necessary to "wipe 'em off the f***ing map."
"That'll put 'em back about four or five generations," Piner said. Moore responded "you're crazy," the report says.
According to the internal investigation report, Moore and Piner also attacked the department's response to Wilmington protests. At one point, Moore said the police chief "dropped the f***ing ball" and that there were "too many times that all he cares about is the f***ing community."
BEHAVIOUR 'WILL NOT BE TOLERATED'
Each officer was interviewed separately about the comments on June 9, as part of the professional standards investigation. The officers denied they were racists, but did not deny making the statements heard in the video, according to the report.
Moore said he was off duty and on his personal phone at the time of his conversation with Piner. He said he was just "venting" about the arrest he had made and that the recent protests had caused him a lot of stress, according to the report. He told investigators he was embarrassed about the comments and said he doesn't typically speak like that.
Piner also said his comments were not characteristic of who he was and that he found them embarrassing, the report says. Recent protests had caused him a great deal of stress, he said, and made him fear for himself and his family. He pointed investigators to a video he saw on social media that he said showed a Black man calling on people to find officers' homes and kill their families. Piner also said he had reached out to the Employee Assistance Program because he felt he was at a breaking point, the report says.
Gilmore said during the interview that he was speaking about videos he had seen on social media, and that he "always treats everyone fairly regardless of their race," the documents show.
The internal investigation found that the officers violated the department's standard of conduct, according to the report, and they were terminated.
Moore and Piner were also found to have violated the policies prohibiting criticizing the police department and using inappropriate slurs.
"There are certain behaviors that one must have in order to be a police officer and these three officers have demonstrated that they do not possess it," Chief Williams said in a statement. "When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened and disgusted. There is no place for this behavior in our agency and our city and it will not be tolerated."