Did the FBI Fail to Investigate Civil Rights Killing Cold Cases?Breaking News
tags: racism, civil rights, violence, FBI
A retired FBI agent was at a Christian retreat in the late 1990s when a churchgoer confided that he had witnessed a shooting of five Black men in 1960 that he believed had been racially motivated.
And when Congress started to pressure the FBI in 2007 to investigate dozens of cases involving violence by the Ku Klux Klan and other whites during the civil rights era, the retired agent told an active agent what he had heard, FBI documents say.
The case involved Robert Fuller, who ran a sanitation business near Monroe, and his claim to have shot five Black employees in self-defense, allegedly as they attacked him over back pay outside his home.
A grand jury in Ouachita Parish chose not to indict Fuller, and Fuller died in the late 1980s. But the witness told the FBI that Fuller was “an extremely violent” man who had “snapped” in anger when the workers drove up, and he provided the FBI with a fresh allegation — that he had also seen one of Fuller’s sons shoot some of the wounded men to finish them off.
Based on that information, the bureau added the allegation to a list that eventually grew to 132 cases involving the deaths of 151 people, including 15 in Louisiana, that seemed worth new looks.
Under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, approved by Congress in 2008, the FBI’s main goal was to see if any suspects were still alive and could be prosecuted.
But as soon as the bureau learned that the Fuller son named by the witness also had died, its interest waned, just as it eventually did in nearly all of the other cases.
And the FBI missed questions, recently uncovered by the LSU Cold Case Project, about whether a different Fuller son, who was still alive when the FBI did its work, could have been involved in what happened at Fuller’s house that day.
Asked about this, an FBI spokesperson, Tina Jagerson, responded: “We appreciate your interest in this topic; however, we do not have a comment for you.”
But Paula Johnson, co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of Law, said that “in terms of criminal actions, we haven’t seen very much” resulting from the FBI’s work under the Till Act.
“There were higher hopes,” she said.
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