Ex-intelligence officer with Greensboro police alleges Klan-Nazi files destroyed
The source of an allegation by four Greensboro pastors that 50 boxes of files related to the 1979 Klan-Nazi shootings were destroyed around the time the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its inquiry into the event is a patrol officer who was formerly assigned to the disbanded special intelligence section.Officer Julius Fulmore confirmed to YES! Weekly last week that he provided the information to the Rev. Nelson Johnson, a survivor of the deadly shootings. Fulmore alleges that Lt. Craig McMinn, then a sergeant and the commander of the special intelligence unit, ordered the destruction of the files. Fulmore’s lawyer, Amiel Rossabi, said he believes Cpl. Ernest Cuthbertson, then also a member of special intelligence, preserved about two of the boxes.Rossabi said Fulmore’s knowledge of the order to destroy the files is incorporated in a complaint alleging disparate treatment that has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which may later become a federal lawsuit against the city. Police Chief Tim Bellamy has previously said that it would be difficult to investigate the alleged destruction of the files without knowing the identity of the pastors’ source.”He will say he was ordered to destroy the files and did not participate,” Rossabi said. “And he will say that Cpl. Cuthbertson preserved approximately two boxes.”Culbertson, who was reached by phone yesterday, declined to address the allegation. McMinn could not be reached for comment at either the police department or through his lawyer in Winston-Salem. “This is absolutely one-hundred percent ‘I want people to know,'” Rossabi said of Fulmore’s decision to make the allegation public. “The chronology will support the facts. He told an assistant city attorney about this well before he filed the EEOC claim. Somebody asked him to do something wrong and he wouldn’t participate. This has nothing to do with him wanting to gain an advantage in an as-yet filed lawsuit.”Retired City Attorney Linda Miles said she would have expected an assistant city attorney to inform her of such an allegation, and she had no knowledge of the matter before the pastors announced it at their press conference last week. Assistant City Attorney ToNola Brown-Bland , who worked on some police issues in late 2005, said she also had no recollection of hearing about the matter prior to the press conference last week. Two other assistant attorneys, Blair Carr and Maurice Cawn, were assigned to police issues in 2004 and 2005. Cawn remains employed with the city, while Carr does not. Carr could not be reached for comment at press time.The Guilford County District Attorney’s office made a determination last week that had the files been destroyed it would not have constituted a criminal violation. The police department then launched an administrative investigation to determine if the allegation is true. Chief Tim Bellamy said today that the internal affairs division plans to interview every current member of the department who has been assigned to the former special intelligence section or its successor, the criminal intelligence unit.The police whistleblower, who has long shied from the public arena, has played a quiet but key role in another police controversy that has embroiled public opinion in Greensboro – allegations of disparate treatment towards black officers and others under the former administration of Chief David Wray, who resigned under pressure in January 2006.Fulmore filed suit against the city last May, alleging secret intrusion into his and other black officers’ personal lives, along with conspiracy to damage his career that was motivated by professional jealousy on the part of white colleagues. Among the codefendants are Wray, Detective Scott Sanders, who is under indictment for alleged crimes related to his dealings with Fulmore, Cuthbertson and a third black officer, Norman Rankin; and McMinn, who supervised the plaintiff in special intelligence.Fulmore was assigned to a federal task force in 2003 to investigate a suspected drug captain named Terry Bracken, according to an internal report by the city legal department that examines allegations of misconduct under Wray’s administration. Of Bracken, a federal informant would later allege: “Bracken has created a group, which consists of younger black males, ranging in age 18-15, that controls the street drug trade in and around the public housing areas. This younger group of Bracken associates refer to themselves as ‘the Goodfellas.’ The group formerly used Club Atlantis [SIC] as a site to host hip-hop parties.”The officer came under suspicion among his cohorts in special intelligence when an informant detained at the Guilford County Jail, Pamela Williams, alleged Fulmore was providing protection for Bracken, the city legal report states. Raising skepticism among task force members from other agencies, who expressed doubt about the informant’s credibility, the police department placed a tracker on Fulmore’s police vehicle to monitor his activities. The report was authored by Carr and Brown-Bland, the two assistant city attorneys.The Rev. Johnson has said he believes the Klan-Nazi files were destroyed in 2004 or 2005, a period that roughly coincides with Fulmore being put under surveillance and suspended for allegations of improper relations with a prostitute. After confirming his role in alleging the destruction of the files, Fulmore declined to make himself available to YES! Weekly for further comment.In February 2004, the city legal report indicates, a vice-narcotics detective discovered that a hotel room was registered in Fulmore’s name. Sanders reportedly searched the room and found drug paraphernalia and a used condom. McMinn was also reportedly on the scene. Sanders discovered that a known prostitute and drug user had rented the room next to Fulmore’s.”Fulmore… stated that a cohort, Greg Lewis, was in need of a place to sleep for the night, so he rented the room for him,” the report states. “Prior to Lewis’ arriving, Fulmore decided to use the room to engage in an assignation with his mistress. Fulmore denied having sex with the prostitute. Hotel employees confirm that Lewis had stayed in the room registered to Fulmore. Lewis admitted being in the room and to smoking crack and using the drug paraphernalia found in the room. He denied any dealings with the prostitute.”Fulmore was placed on administrative leave in June 2004 while the incident was investigated. A month earlier, a selection panel had named the seven members of the truth commission, and in June the commissioners were sworn in before more than 500 people in a decorous ceremony held at the Depot in downtown Greensboro. Before he was suspended, Fulmore had argued in lineup that it was wrong for special intelligence to perform investigations on black officers, while allegations of misconduct by white officers were handled through the more transparent criminal investigation unit. “Officer Fulmore was chastised by McMinn for his vocal opposition to the wrongful conduct,” the lawsuit alleges. “In fact, almost immediately, McMinn, in his individual and official capacity, changed and downgraded Officer Fulmore’s evaluation.”Fulmore was cleared of all criminal allegations, and the city legal report noted that the only administrative violation that arose from the lengthy investigation was failing to document contact with a known offender. In March 2005, Fulmore returned to duty and was reassigned to patrol.The multi-agency investigation of Terry Bracken continued into 2007, and in October he pleaded guilty to selling marijuana and to selling a firearm to a felon, crimes that could net him up to 15 years in prison.The truth commission presented its report on the 1979 Klan-Nazi killings in May 2006. Since then the discourse over that contentious period of the city’s history has been subsumed by the growing controversy over former Chief Wray’s resignation. Fulmore’s allegation that McMinn ordered the destruction of files related to the killings has slammed the matter back into the public eye, both locally and nationally.The Rev. William J. Barber II, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, requested federal intervention in the matter in a Feb. 28 letter to North Carolina Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, and to Reps. Mel Watt and Howard Coble.”We request a federal investigation of the Greensboro Police Department with full witness protection services for the officers who have and will come forward,” Barber wrote. “This request is urgent because we understand the Greensboro government says it cannot investigate this allegation without the identity of the whistleblower. We believe an outside FBI investigation can find other avenues for learning the truth. The officer who broke the ‘blue no-snitch rule’ is in obvious danger.”The Greensboro City Council passed a resolution last night welcoming the FBI and other federal agencies to review the police department.The Rev. Johnson, accompanied by three other pastors, alleged in a press conference on Feb. 23 that intelligence files were kept separate from other police files and that there are no backup files to the destroyed files.” The source, since identified as Fulmore, “said at least four active-duty police officers were present when the order to destroy was given,” the pastors said. Fulmore “then stated that several of the police officers took approximately 50 boxes of files and threw them in a dumpster.”Fulmore told Johnson that he believed McMinn, “if officially asked by appropriate city officials, would not lie but would tell the truth as it related to destroying the files.”Rossabi said Fulmore was assigned to protect officials involved in one or more of the criminal and civil trials that took place in the 1980s following the killings. “Officer Fulmore knew what was in some of the boxes,” Rossabi said. “He doesn’t know what boxes were destroyed and what were preserved. He was safeguarding some of the officials who were involved in some of the trials.”At least some of the intelligence files documenting police interviews with Klan informant Eddie Dawson and surveillance files on members of the Communist Workers Party were brought out through discovery in the 1985 civil trial. The files were donated by the plaintiffs and are available for review at the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library.The jury in the 1985 civil trial found members of the Klan and Nazis jointly liable with Dawson and two police officers for the death of one of the demonstrators. In all, five communist labor activists were killed in the confrontation with ultra-right racists in the predominantly black Morningside Homes housing projects on Nov. 3, 1979. Klan and Nazi defendants were acquitted in two criminal trials.The role of the Greensboro Police Department in the confrontation has long been a source of controversy. The informant led the Klan-Nazi caravan to Morningside Homes, and his police handler, Detective Jerry Cooper, followed the group to the march’s staging area. Two tactical units were positioned away from the marchers, and police were not on the scene in force when shooting broke out. The truth commission determined in its May 2006 report that “the single most important element that contributed to the violent outcome of the confrontation was the absence of police.”One significant document did not turn up during the truth commission’s review of the 1979 killings. Commission staff had hoped to locate an operational plan outlining how the police should handle the anti-Klan march. Research Director Emily Harwell wrote in her notes before the commission released its report that some officers suggested that they saw the document and that it was destroyed.To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at email@example.com.