WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Members of the NAACP and the Wilmington 10 rally tonight in support of pardons for the group. More than 40 years after Mike's Grocery on South 6th Street was fire bombed, a former Wilmington Police officer says there is another side of the story that is not being told.
"If these people didn't do it, then who did?" former cop John Winecoff said. "I can't find out an answer."
Winecoff joined the police department in May 1971, three months after the firebombing and shooting at Mike's Grocery that led to criminal charges against the Wilmington 10.
Now that the group is asking for pardons from the state, Winecoff feels the full story needs to be retold.
"For them to say they're innocent, and you just read the press reports of what happened during that period of time from February to October (1971), I don't know what other conclusion you can draw," Winecoff said.
Winecoff says over the years police have been portrayed as the bad guys. He says many have never come forward to tell the truth.
"They don't want to speak up, because that's what happens when they do speak up. They are portrayed as racist," Winecoff said. "And a lot of them will say to me, 'Why speak up? It's not going to change anything.'
If granted pardons, each member of the Wilmington 10 could be compensated $50,000 for each year they spent in prison, but that's not why Winecoff opposes the possible clemency.
"It's not about the money," Winecoff said. "It's about what is right and what is the truth."
NC NAACP President William Barber and members of the Wilmington 10 will take part in a Rally in Support of Pardons at 7 p.m. at St. Stephen's AME Church on Red Cross Street in Wilmington.