Cop fired after racist remarks caught on tape “forgot” to disclose criminal record to department

Three cops were fired after patrol footage revealed racist remarks and threats of violence against Black residents

By Roger Sollenberger
Published June 26, 2020 12:56PM (EDT)
Police cars at night (Getty Images)
Police cars at night (Getty Images)

Three officers were fired by the Wilmington Police Department on Thursday after they accidentally recorded themselves making openly racist comments and threats of violence against Black residents, according to investigators. 

One of those men was accused in administrative court by the state of North Carolina of failure to disclose an extensive criminal record to the department, a 2014 filing shows

James "Brian" Gilmore pleaded guilty in 2011 to driving while intoxicated, and he was subsequently suspended from the department for 30 days without pay, demoted from corporal officer to patrol officer and reassigned to another unit.

The follow-up internal investigation dragged up old infractions, which Gilmore had failed to disclose upon his hiring in 1997. According to the 2014 filing, those included another DWI, as well as citations for purchasing alcohol for a minor, possession of alcohol as a minor, a hit-and-run on an unattended vehicle and illegally fishing.

In the 2014 hearing, which Gilmore had requested an appeal to argue that he should not lose his shield, the officer explained to a North Carolina administrative court judge that his father had retained an attorney to represent him in connection with those charges, and "his father handled the matter for him." He also told the court that he "did not recall that there had been a DWI charge."

This Wednesday, investigators revealed that Gilmore was caught on tape earlier this month criticizing the Black Lives Matter protests in Wilmington with fellow officer Michael "Kevin" Piner, who told Gilmore the department's only concern seemed to be "kneeling down with the Black folks."

Gilmore replied that he had seen a video on social media of white individuals kneeling in solidarity, which he characterized as "white people bowing down on their knees and worshipping Blacks," according to a report released by the department this week.

The show of solidarity also featured a "fine looking white girl and this little punk pretty boy bowing down and kissing their toes," Gilmore was quoted as saying.

Their conversation was captured when Piner accidentally turned on his patrol video recorder, and was later discovered in a routine audit of patrol footage.

According to the police report, Gilmore attempted to explain the remarks to department investigators by claiming that the social media video had disturbed him because the Bible instructs "thou shall not bow to any idol."

In the 2014 hearing, one of Gilmore's department colleagues who testified to his character said, "He treats the public well . . . He's an excellent police officer . . . If you could have a picture of a community policing officer, it would be Brian Gilmore."

Though the administrative judge in the proceeding found that the evidence against Gilmore had constituted "material misrepresentations," he ruled that it did not prove the officer had intentionally deceived the department by failing to reveal his record.

The judge wrote that the testimony of fellow officers demonstrated that Gilmore had "very favorable character traits including that of honesty, truthfulness, integrity, professionalism and dedication to law enforcement service."

The judge also noted that the department chief at the time, Ralph M. Evangelous, who resigned this January, considered Gilmore a "good police officer" despite the missing paperwork and recent DWI. Testimony from fellow men and women in blue, the judge wrote, indicated that Gilmore had "redeemed himself for that error in judgment."

In the end, the administrative court recommended the state not strip Gilmore's state certification. Two months later, an attorney for the state and the state's law enforcement commission agreed.

Current Wilmington Chief of Police Donny Williams said this Wednesday that all three officers had been fired for misconduct, and the department was working with the state to determine whether to revoke their certifications.

"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 in a statement.

While the department found that Gilmore's racist remarks met the bar for misconduct, investigators labeled Piner's conversations with Cpl. Jesse Moore as "hate speech."

The investigative report detailed recorded conversations in which those two officers criticized the department's response to the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted nationwide after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, calling one of their Black colleagues a "piece of sh*t" and claiming another had been "sitting on his ass" during the demonstrations.

"Let's see how his boys take care of him when sh*t gets rough," Piner said in the recording. "See if they don't put a bullet in his head."

Moore, who like Gilmore joined the force in 1997, later described to Piner the recent arrest of a Black woman, whom he repeatedly called the N-word, adding: "She needed a bullet in the head right then and move on."

"Let's move the body out of the way and keep going," Moore added.

"That's what I've been trying to tell you," Piner replied.

Moore also called a Black judge a "f***ing negro magistrate."

Piner, upon predicting that the protests would lead to a second Civil War, volunteered that he was preparing to buy an assault rifle.

"We are just going to go out and start slaughtering them," Piner said, adding the N-word. 

"God, I can't wait," he continued. 

Moore said he would not do that.

Piner said he welcomed a second Civil War, because it would "wipe 'em off the f***ing map. That'll put 'em back about four or five generations."

"You're crazy," Moore replied.

The officers have maintained they are not racist but had only been "venting," arguing, per the report, that the "stress of today's climate in law enforcement" was too much to bear.

Piner acknowledged that the tape was "embarrassing," but said he had recently been afraid for his family's safety and reached a "breaking point."

Chief Williams, a Black man who formally took office only days ago following months serving in an acting capacity, called the conversations "brutally offensive" and released a summary of the department's internal investigation in a show of transparency.

"This is the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career," he said. "We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this country."

The department's public information officer told Salon in a phone call that two of the three officers had filed for restraining orders against the department. The court tossed the requests, but ordered the department not to comment on the case beyond the materials made public.

District Attorney Ben David announced Thursday that his office was in the process of dismissing or reviewing the 89 pending cases involving Piner, Moore or Gilmore.

"Since learning about the terminations, my office has undertaken a review of all cases where these officers were the primary charging officers. [Some] cases were dismissed [Wednesday], and the individuals charged will be notified by mail of these dismissals in the coming days," David said.

Of the cases under review, 24 are Piner's, 32 are Moore's, and 33 are Gilmore's. Some carry serious charges, including an assault on a woman, felony larceny and at least one case of felony assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious injury.

Neither Gilmore, Moore nor Piner responded to Salon's request for comment.


Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger is a staff writer at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

MORE FROM Roger SollenbergerFOLLOW SollenbergerRC


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Black Lives Matter George Floyd North Carolina Police Brutality Racism