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Judge upholds firing of WPD officer over racist remarks; transcripts from videos made public

Judge upholds firing of WPD officer over racist remarks; transcripts from videos made public
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 4:38 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A Superior Court Judge has denied the appeal of a former Wilmington Police Department officer fired for his role in several racist conversations inadvertently recorded by a malfunctioning dashboard camera.

James Brian Gilmore was one of the three officers, Kevin Piner and Jesse Moore being the other two, fired after the discovery of the first recording nearly two years ago. Gilmore first appealed the decision to terminate his employment to the Wilmington Civil Service Commission, which upheld his firing. In appealing that decision to the court, Gilmore claims the Civil Service Commission violated his constitutional rights — among other issues presented.

The judge agreed with some of the points raised by Gilmore, and said the CSC should not have considered District Attorney Ben David’s Giglio letter, which lists Gilmore as ineligible to testify in court for the police department, in its decision.

Still, Judge R. Kent Harrell sustained the firing in a ruling released on Tuesday.

“Upon review of the whole record, the court finds that the decision of the Wilmington Civil Service Commission was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion,” the judge’s order reads.

After firing the officers in June 2020, Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams and District Attorney Ben David released parts of the conversations and the investigation into these officers. However, verbatim transcripts of the recordings along with the recordings themselves were not provided, despite efforts by the police department and the city to release the footage.

However, since these records were used as exhibits in a court case, they are now in the public record and available for anyone to access.

These records include detailed interviews with the fired officers conducted during the internal affairs investigation, as well as transcripts of the recordings and previous disciplinary actions taken against the officers during their careers with the police department.

Transcripts

The exhibits presented in the case consist of hundreds of pages, but the most revealing documents included the transcripts of the recordings. While the limited written portions previously-released by officials detailed some of the most egregious things said by the former officers, the newly-released transcripts show the casual nature of the conversations and the context of them as well.

The recordings took place during the summer of 2020 when protests were held across the country following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

While Gilmore’s statements included race-related language, Piner and Moore’s conversations included extremely racist language, as well as discussions of killing people, both Black and white.

“I know good people have gotta die, but it’s that time. It is that time that we go ahead, and yes, there’s gonna be women and children die, and there’s gonna be people that don’t deserve it,” Kevin Piner said to Jesse Moore, the new transcripts reveal.

At another point in the recordings, the conversations turned to martial law, and the desire of the speakers to see it enacted.

Piner: “We’re close to martial law.”

Moore: “That’s what I’m saying. Right now though … You don’t even have to just, uh, retreat.”

Piner: “Martial law baby.”

Moore: “I’ll take it right now. We need that.”

These are just part of the transcripts which span several pages, most of them containing racist language or calls for violence, as well as criticisms of the police department.

Links to documents:

WECT is providing links to these documents from the court records which are publicly available at the New Hanover County Courthouse. These documents contain extremely graphic language and reader discretion is advised.

https://www.scribd.com/document/573721237/Exhibits

https://www.scribd.com/document/573721239/Judge-ruling

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