A Wilmington, North Carolina police officer who was fired for taking part in a violently racist conversation has filed an appeal, claiming his comments were protected religious speech.
Wilmington Police officer James “Brian” Gilmore was one of three officers fired last month for taking part in recorded racist conversations. One of those conversations, for which Gilmore was not present, involved racist slurs and talk of massacring Black Americans in a second Civil War.
Now he wants to be reinstated on the police force.
The shocking conversations came to light last month, after a Wilmington Police sergeant accidentally recovered them on Officer Michael “Kevin” Piner’s squad car camera.
In the first conversation, according to partial records released by the city, Piner and Gilmore discuss Black Lives Matter protesters. Piner tells Gilmore that the police agency was only concerned with “kneeling down with the Black folks.” Gilmore said he’d watched a video of white people “worshipping Blacks.”
“How many times have I told you it’s almost like they think they’re their own god?” Gilmore asked Piner, describing the video as showing a “fine-looking white girl and this punk little pretty boy bowing down and kissing their toes.”
The officers then began discussing their department, particularly its Black officers. Gilmore named a Black officer he said had been at the protests “down there sitting on his ass.” Piner added that a different Black officer was “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 of the Black colleague. At this point, Gilmore left to answer a call, according to city records.
Shortly thereafter, Piner strikes up a phone conversation with another officer, Cpl. Jesse Moore. Moore tells Piner about a recent arrest, calling the woman he arrested a “negro” and a “n****r.” Moore also described a Black judge as a “fucking negro magistrate” who “needed a bullet in her head right there and then and move on. Let’s move the body out of the way and keep going.”
When Moore notes that “not all Black people are like that,” Piner replies “most of ‘em.”
“90 percent of ‘em Kevin,” Moore agreed. “90 fucking percent of ‘em.”
Piner then began to talk about a “civil war” he thought was coming, and his plans to buy an assault rifle for what he anticipated would be martial law. “We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them fucking n*****s. I can’t wait. God I can’t wait,” Piner said.
He later added that he thought such a war was necessary to “wipe ‘em off the fucking map. That’ll put ‘em back about four or five generations.” (Moore responded, “You’re crazy.”)
An internal investigation found that Piner and Moore had clearly violated department rules against using slurs, although Gilmore’s comments had stopped short of breaking the rules.
Nevertheless, “your comments regarding people of color and the performance of your duties most certainly are a violation of our Department’s Standard of Conduct Policy,” the department’s interim police chief wrote in a letter to Gilmore. “Your tone and references to people of color displays conduct other than that expected by members of this Department.”
In a filing first reported by the Port City Daily, Gilmore appealed for reinstatement, claiming his comments were not racist, but religiously motivated.
“I began to discuss a matter of which I hold strong religious beliefs (Christian), that being worship of the Lord,” Gilmore wrote. “The Holy Bible teaches that no one should bow down before another human being or idol and worship them.”
He claimed that, because his comments were religious in nature, they were protected by his First Amendment rights to free religious belief.
His comments about his Black colleague, he said, were not “because of his race, but was meant to call attention to the lack of officer safety.”
His letter did not condemn his colleague’s comments about genocide.