WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David announced Thursday no criminal charges will be brought against three fired Wilmington Police officers. Now we’re hearing reaction from those in the African American community.
The three veteran officers, Kevin Piner, Jesse Moore, and James Gilmore were terminated on June 23. According to WPD, they were caught on camera using racial slurs, offensive comments, or threats of violence.
Several petitions were started in the Wilmington area, calling for criminal charges to be brought against three former officers. Despite this, The DA declined to file charges.
“I would definitely ask him to reconsider and look into it further, definitely,” said Black Lives Matter of Wilmington organizer Sonya Patrick. “I just don’t understand as a person that would depend on law enforcement how they can make these types of statements, it’s transparent what they said.”
Patrick believes former officer Kevin Piner could be charged with NC Statute 14-401.14, ethnic intimidation. It constitutes a class one misdemeanor.
“That could have been brought against him, but it wasn’t,” Patrick said. “We feel it could have.”
However, David says a private conversation not intended to be heard by any potential target cannot constitute a crime for which someone can be arrested or prosecuted.
New Hanover County NAACP President Deborah Dicks Maxwell also reacted to the decision.
“I was disappointed when I heard what he said, but then I consulted another attorney who said that that was correct,” Maxwell said. “So while we want the officers charged legally, we cannot.”
David is now calling for a federal investigation, saying that could result in future criminal charges or the potential for prior convictions to be overturned.
“I’m sincerely hopeful and i’m glad to hear he has done this in a more expeditious manner,” Maxwell said.
In a news release sent Friday night, Sonya Patrick with Black Lives Matter Wilmington, NC said:
“We are pleased that Officers James Gilmore and Kevin Piner, and Corporal Jesse Moore were fired and they should not be allowed to work as police officers anywhere in the United States. Moreover, a message must be sent to all police officers who disparage their commander and threaten to murder citizens, and to start an insurrection must be arrested and indicted. We are asking the judge to release the full transcript of the onboard camera recording. Without that transparency, the community will not have confidence that this matter was handled fairly and justly. We do not safe.”I want to thank Chief Donny Williams for his leadership and quick action. What was most disturbing was not the portion of the conversation that we read; It is what was omitted from WPD’s announcement of the firing. From events in Wilmington, there is evidence of police interactions taken against unarmed victims that ended in the death of the victim. Patrick goes on to say, “We must end qualified immunity for police officers. WPD officers who break the law must be subject to the same standard as all citizens of the city.” A 2006 FBI intelligence report raised alarm over white supremacist group’s infiltration of law enforcement communities. WPD hiring practices must be upgraded to 21st century standards and training must include cultural competency skills and implicit bias training.“The culture of America is trending toward fairness and it starts with police accountability, transparency, and reform of police culture,” says Patrick. Spurred on by the frequency of incidences of deadly police interactions, the nation sees just how provisions in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act 2020 are urgently needed. The measures in the bill are needed here in Wilmington. We must establish a Citizens Review Board with subpoena power. Wilmington’s government must invest in social services, housing, education, and jobs. Symbols of bondage and hatred must be removed from our schools, buildings, and streets, along with monuments to slavery and segregation.” Patrick concludes, “I have fought for these things for years and giving up is not an option. I will continue to demand that Wilmington, NC reverse the vestiges of the 1898 Massacre and join the national movement toward equal justice for all.”
Black Lives Matter of Wilmington will be holding what they are calling a 4th of You Lie March Saturday at 2:00 p.m. starting at the 1898 Memorial Park and ending at Innes Park. Click here for details.