Editor’s note: This article contains extremely graphic and racist language, reader discretion is advised.
WILMINGTON — “We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them fu—– ni—–. I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.”
These are the words of a now-former Wilmington Police Department officer Kevin Piner.
He, along with two other officers, have been fired from the department after dash-cam footage recorded two phone conversations — accidentally — and a supervisor conducting a routine audit of the videos found the disturbing content.
Michael ‘Kevin’ Piner, James ‘Brian’ Gilmore, and Jessie E. Moore II were all terminated from the force. The announcement came from the new Chief of Police Donny Williams — not even 24-hours into his first day as chief.
On Wednesday afternoon, members of City Council along with Williams held a press conference to address the conduct of the former police officers. Williams, a nearly 30-year veteran at the department said he was saddened by the actions of the officers, but would have no tolerance for this type of behavior.
“Today is a challenging day for me because as your police chief, one of my first major tasks is to announce the termination of three veteran police officers,” Williams said.
In North Carolina, public records laws typically prevent government agencies from handing out information on personnel; however, in extraordinary circumstances, details can be released to the public.
The former officers actively tried to prevent a release of the information, and an attorney filed an apparently unsuccessful motion for a temporary restraining order, but ultimately the city decided it was the right thing to do.
“Why are we releasing this information this way and at this time? Because it is the right thing to do. Normally, personnel laws allow only a very small amount of information to be made public. 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. This is the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career. We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this country,” Williams said.
As far as the video goes, Williams said the police would be working with a judge to determine if that footage can be released.
“Lastly, we will be filing a petition in which we will ask the Court to review whether or not some or all of the video, in this case, should be released. The law requires that a judge make that determination and we will support the judiciary by bringing the matter before the Court and supplying any information or other documents that Court may desire,” Williams said.
Williams and Saffo both stressed the importance of not placing the blame of the three officers on the hundreds of other officers in the department.
On June 4, just days after protests began in Wilmington regarding the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, a Sergeant Heflin was conducting monthly video audits — a routine part of her job — when she came across what was labeled as ‘accidental activations’ from Piner’s car.
Apparently, the car’s camera system was recording despite not being ‘activated’ for an incident (typically cameras are recording at all times but will not keep the recordings unless an officer triggers the system).
After skipping through the video, which was largely video of his backseat, she found a conversation between Piner and Corporal Jessie Moore — a police officer with the department since 1997.
As she reviewed the conversation, she “heard comments, extremely racist comments made by both Piner and Moore,” according to a summary provided by police.
The video also recorded a conversation with Officer Gilmore who apparently had pulled up next to Piner’s car.
Both conversations were explicit and racist in content.
According to the investigation summary, at 6:51 a.m., on a date not listed, Piner and Gilmore are recorded having a conversation.
“Their conversation eventually turned to the topic of the protests against racism occurring across the nation. Piner tells Gilmore that the only thing this agency is concerned with is “kneeling down with the black folks.” Gilmore then said that he watched a video on social media about white people bowing down on their knees and “worshipping blacks,” according to the summary.
The conversation then turned to other police officers in the Wilmington Police Department — black officers.
The audio has Piner calling one of the officers ‘bad news’ and a ‘piece of shit.’
“Let’s see how his boys take care of him when shit gets rough, see if they don’t put a bullet in his head,” Piner said about a fellow officer.
That conversation ends as Piner goes to respond to an alarm call.
‘A civil war is coming’
The second of the two conversations that day happened after Piner received a phone call from Moore.
According to the summary, “Moore began telling Piner about an arrest he had made at work the day before. During that conversation, Moore refers to the female as a ‘negro’ and a ‘ni—-‘ on multiple occasions.”
He also referred to a magistrate judge, who is also black, as a ‘fucking negro magistrate.’
“At one point, Moore states, “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 responds, ‘That’s what I have been trying to tell you,'” according to the documents.
After more derogatory comments about the arrestee and the magistrate, the conversation takes an even bleaker turn, as the two officers discuss an upcoming ‘civil war.’
“Piner tells Moore later in the conversation that he feels a civil war is coming and he is ‘ready.’ Piner advised he is going to buy a new assault rifle in the next couple of weeks. A short time later Officer Piner began to discuss society being close to ‘martial law’ and soon ‘we are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them fucking ni—–. I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.’ Moore responded that he would not do that. Piner stated, ‘I am ready,'” according to the summary.
“Officer Piner then explained to Cpl. Moore that he felt society needed a civil war to “wipe ’em off the fucking map. That’ll put ’em back about four or five generations.'”
After the conversations were discovered police launched their own investigations into the incidents. None of the officers involved denied saying the things they said, according to WPD.
“Each officer admitted it was their voice on the video. They did not deny saying any of the things heard on the video. Each officer pointed to the stress of today’s climate in law enforcement as a reason for their ‘venting,'” according to the investigation.
Chief Williams took the following corrective actions for the three officers.
- Termination of employment, each not eligible for rehire with the City of Wilmington.
- Notification to the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission in regards to their behaviors. These individuals should not be allowed to practice law enforcement again, he said.
- Consultation with the District Attorney’s Office regarding these officers being used as witnesses in cases and reviewing any previous cases they might have testified in to determine any bias that might have been exhibited.
You can read the full release of the documents below.
Editor’s note: This article was awarded first place in breaking news coverage in the North Carolina Press Association’s 2020 editorial contest.