Three police officers in Wilmington, North Carolina, were fired after a supervisor found recorded conversations that included racist remarks, slurs and one officer saying he “can’t wait” to start “slaughtering” Black people, the department announced Wednesday.
Chief Donny Williams of the Wilmington Police Department said in a news conference that the officers were fired for misconduct after an internal investigation.
“The conversations included disrespectful language, hate-filled speech and referred to black people as the N-word,” he said. “They also criticized me within this video, several Black officers within the agency and made negative comments about individuals outside of the agency. They made negative comments about our Black Lives Matter protests and were critical of our response.”
The firings of the officers came as protests over racism and police mistreatment of Black people are resounding across the country, along with calls for greater accountability in law enforcement.
The department identified the officers as James B. Gilmore, 48; Cpl. Jesse E. Moore II, 50; and Michael K. Piner, 44. Williams said the investigation began after a supervisor’s routine inspection found the accidental activation of a patrol car camera, a device fixed in the back of the vehicles to monitor people in custody.
A summary of the internal investigation report on the conversations was released by the department this week. In one conversation, Piner and Gilmore criticize the protests, with Piner saying the Police Department’s only concern was “kneeling down with the black folks,” according to the report.
Gilmore said he saw a video on social media that he described as “white people bowing down on their knees and ‘worshipping blacks,’ ” the report said.
In another exchange detailed in the report, Moore called Piner and referred to a Black woman he had arrested the day before, using a racial slur and saying she “needed a bullet in her head right then and move on.”
Later in the conversation, Piner told Moore that he felt a civil war was coming and that he was “ready” and going to buy a new assault rifle. “We are just going to go out and start slaughtering them,” the report quotes Piner, referring to Black people with an expletive and racial slur.
“I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait,” he said.
Moore responded that he would not do that. Piner is quoted as saying that society needed a civil war to “wipe ’em off” the map, to which Moore responded, “You’re crazy.”
When supervisors confronted the officers with the recordings, each denied being racist and described the pressure that police were experiencing because of the protests, according to the internal report.
Gilmore told the department that he was unnerved by the video he referred to in conversation because the Bible says not to “bow to any idol” and that he treats everyone fairly.
Piner said he was under great stress from concern for his and his family’s safety, the report said. He told supervisors that the comments were “uncharacteristic of him, and he was out of control,” according to the report.
Moore told supervisors that he was off duty, at his home and using his personal phone in the conversation, and that he was extremely stressed and “feeding off of Officer Piner and just venting,” the report said.
The three men could not be reached by telephone Thursday.
According to their termination letters, the three men were fired for standard of conduct violations, while Piner and Moore also broke the department’s policy on criticism and inappropriate jokes and slurs with “hate-filled speech.” The department said the three had been police officers since the late 1990s.Williams said that normally, only a small amount of information is made public, according to personnel laws. “However, in exceptional cases, when it is essential to maintain public confidence in the administration of the city and the Police Department, more information may be released,” he said.
“We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this country,” he said. The department was taking the rare step of releasing details and records behind the firings because it was “the right thing to do,” he said.
Benjamin David, the district attorney, said in a statement Wednesday that his office had reviewed and dismissed cases in which the men had been the primary charging officers.
Williams said the department was working with the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission to determine whether they could maintain their state certification.
“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,” he said.