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North Carolina Police Chief Fires Three Officers Over Racist Comments Caught On Tape

The city of Wilmington, N.C. has fired officers James Gilmore and Kevin Piner and Corporal Jesse Moore after a review of footage from one of their control cars showed them making racist and disparaging remarks.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
AFP via Getty Images
The city of Wilmington, N.C. has fired officers James Gilmore and Kevin Piner and Corporal Jesse Moore after a review of footage from one of their control cars showed them making racist and disparaging remarks.

The police department in Wilmington, N.C. has fired three police officers after investigators say footage from one of their patrol cars showed them exchanging racist and sometimes threatening remarks.

Those include one of the officers saying he was ready for a "civil war" against Black people.

On Tuesday, the Wilmington Police Department fired officers James Gilmore and Kevin Piner and Corporal Jesse Moore after a routine review of video by the department triggered an investigation.

Investigators say video captured exchanges by the officers showed them making disparaging and racist remarks. Two of them — Moore and Piner — were said to be captured using the n-word multiple times. Investigators also said Gilmore referred to anti-racism protesters as "worshipping blacks," and Piner said he expects a "civil war" and was planning to buy an assault rifle.

In a statement on Wednesday, Chief Donny Williamssaid the officers had violated department rules in the recorded conversations.

"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," Williams said. "When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened and disgusted. There is no place for this behavior."

Williams also said he was recommending that the former officers be ineligible for re-hire by the city and was notifying state authorities responsible for deciding if an officer can maintain state certification.

Williams also announced that the department would work with the District Attorney to review any possible bias they may have shown in criminal cases.

Hanover County District Attorney Benjamin David told NPR that a prosecutor in his office has initially identified 89 cases involving the former officers to be reviewed. He said that while the review is ongoing, his office has already thrown out cases.

"We made that determination for these three officers, we do not intend to call them in the future for any case," David told NPR.

Williams made the announcement just one day after he was sworn in as the city's police chief.

He said Wednesday was a "challenging day for me because as your new police chief — one of my first major tasks is to announce the termination of three veteran police officers for misconduct."

"While terminating an employee is never easy – there are times when it is extremely necessary," Williams added.

A routine inspection uncovered the racist remarks

The investigation that resulted in the firing of the three officers began with a routine audit.

According to an internal investigation, a police sergeant conducting a monthly review of police footage uncovered the remarks on June 4. The nearly two-hour long video came from a camera in Piner's patrol vehicle that was "accidentally" activated. After listening to the video for a short time, the sergeant heard "extremely racist" comments from the officers.

The video, according to the documents, shows Piner engaging in two separate conversations, one with Gilmore and then a phone call with Moore. The discussions include racist language and comments disparaging Wilmington police officers and officials and anti-racism protesters.

The first conversation begins roughly 46 minutes into the video, the investigation said, and shows Gilmore and Piner engaging in a conversation about anti-racism protests happening nationwide and in Wilmington.

As outlined by investigators, Piner said the only concern of the department is "kneeling down with the black folks" while Gilmore added that protesters are "worshipping blacks."

In a phone conversation about half an hour later between Piner and another officer, a discussion about an arrest from the previous day becomes a graphic conversation about preparing for violence against Black people, according to the investigation.

During the call, Moore used the words "n*****" and "negro" to talk about a woman he arrested. When discussing the arrest, Moore also said "she needed a bullet in her head right then" and complained about an officer who discouraged him from breaking the window of her car.

Moore also referred to a magistrate, who is Black, as a "negro magistrate."

Later on in the conversation, Piner said he's "ready" for a civil war. According to investigators, Piner said, using the n-word, that "we are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them."

"God I can't wait," Piner is reported to have said.

Piner also said, according to investigators, that he plans to buy an assault rifle and that society needed a civil war to "put 'em back about four or five generations."

Former officers did not deny making the remarks on the recording

According to the department, Piner, Gilmore and Moore confirmed it was their voices captured on video and they did not deny the remarks.

In interviews with investigators, all three of them said they were venting, citing what they called the current climate for police. They also denied being racist. Moore also said his comments were recorded when he was off-duty, calling Piner from his home.

Williams said that Wilmington officials also elected to make many documents in the case public, saying that it was "essential to maintain public confidence in the administration of the City and the Police Department."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jason Slotkin