Albert Pitts - David Pitts - Marshall Johns - Ernest McPharland - Willie Gibson - Notice to Close File

Date: 
Wednesday, July 13, 1960

File No. 144-33-2263 

                                                                                CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION
                                                                                   Notice to Close File

 

                                                                                Date April 22, 2010

To:      Chief, Criminal Section

Re:      Zennie William Fuller (Deceased), William Herbert Fuller (Deceased) Monroe, Louisiana - Subjects; Albert Pitts (Deceased), David Pitts (Deceased) Marshall Johns (Deceased), Ernest McPharland (Deceased) Willie Gibson - Victims CIVIL RIGHTS

 

It is recommended that the above case be closed for the following reasons:

Case Synopsis

On July 13, 1960, Albert Pitts, David Pitts, Marshall Johns, Ernest McPharland, and Willie Charlie Gibson, the African-American victims, were shot by their white employer, subject Zennie (Robert) William Fuller, with a shotgun.  According to contemporaneous newspaper accounts, victims Albert Pitts, David Pitts, and Marshall Johns died immediately, while victims Ernest McPharland and Willie Gibson were critically wounded.  McPharland reportedly died in            

                                                                                     _____________________________

                                                                                                Cristina Gamondi
                                                                                                        Attorney


 

To:  Records Section

       Office of Legal Administration

The above numbered file has been closed as of this date.

_4-22-10____________                                                                        ________________________________

   Date                                                                                                  Chief, Criminal Section
                                                                                                             FORMERLY CVR-3 FORM CL-3

the hospital of a head wound on the night of July 14, 1960.  Gibson eventually recovered.

Zennie Fuller’s (Fuller) XXXXXXXXXXXXXX was in the house at the time of the shooting and was interviewed by the FBI on January 31, 2008.  XXXXX stated that subject Zennie Fuller (aka Robert Fuller) owned a septic tank installation service and employed the victims.  At the time of the shooting, Fuller was greatly in arrears on his employees’ wages. XXXXX stated that the day before the shooting, July 12, 1960, subject William Fuller argued with one of the five victims, presumably over the outstanding wages and, during the altercation that ensued, struck the victim in the head with a shovel.  

XXXXX told the FBI that on the morning of July 13, 1960, XXXXX was awakened by the sound of shotgun fire.  XXXXX then saw XXXXX standing outside with a shotgun and all of the victims except Willie Gibson lying on the ground.  According to XXXXX, two or three of the victims were not yet dead.  At that point, subject William Herbert Fuller (William), Fuller XXXXX and XXXXX shot the dying men in the head with a pistol, to “finish them off.”[1]  Fuller then walked into the house, drank some coffee, and called XXXXXXXXXXXXX a XXXXX of his.  According to XXXXX Fuller said, XXXX this is Robert.  You better get down to my house.  I just shot five niggers.”  XXXXX opined to the FBI that Fuller, who was an extremely violent man, “snapped” when he saw the victims arrive at work that morning.  He opined further that Fuller, who eventually became a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, shot the victims because they were African-American.[2]

According to contemporaneous newspaper accounts, Fuller claimed that he shot the victims in self-defense when they attacked him with knives and curved linoleum hooks.  According to Fuller, the victims were angry with him because, the day prior to the shooting, July 12, 1960, he had struck Willie Gibson for cursing at him.  According to Fuller, the victims attempted to break into his house the night of July 12 but were frightened away by the screams of XXXXXXXXXXXX. 

Fuller reportedly told responding officers that on the morning of July 13, 1960, the victims drove to his home and asked him to “come on down the road and talk a minute.”  When Fuller refused, one of the men swung three times at him with a knife.  At that point, Fuller retreated to his truck, rapidly pulled out a shotgun, and fired it several times, reloading more than once.

According to newspaper accounts, one of the victims, likely Gibson, reportedly admitted to one of Fuller’s XXXXXXXXX that he and the other victims had intended to “hurt Mr. Robert” that morning.  The newspaper accounts also stated that when deputies arrived at the scene they found several knives near the bodies and one of the wounded victims still clutching a knife in his hand. 

XXXXXX told the FBI that XXX heard several additional details of the incident over the years. XXXXXX heard that XXXXXX had threatened to kill Gibson unless he gave an account consistent with Fuller’s claim of self-defense.  XXXXX also heard that Fuller and William put knives in the hands of the victims.  XXXXX stated that XXXXXXX recalled seeing the knives in the hands of the victims and recognized the knives as coming from his house.

Fuller was taken into custody after the shooting and held on an “open charge” pending the results of the investigation.  Fuller was never indicted, however.

Zennie Fuller died on March 7, 1987, and William Fuller died on November 6, 2005.

Federal Review

In the fall of 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a review of the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death, pursuant to the Department of Justice’s “Cold Case” initiative and the “Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007,” which charges the Department of Justice to investigate “violations of criminal civil rights statutes . . . result[ing] in death” that “occurred not later than December 31, 1969.”  The FBI interviewed XXXXXXXXXX[3]  The FBI also conducted thorough searches of various internet and other resources in attempts to locate Willie Gibson and any living relatives of the victims.  Additionally, the FBI contacted various Louisiana law enforcement officials, a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) investigator, and Monroe hospitals.

The FBI reviewed the records of the Ouachita Parish District Court and found no indictments or informations filed in the case.

The FBI contacted officials at St. Francis Medical Center and Greenwood Regional Medical Center (GRMC).  However, GRMC was not in operation at the time of the shooting and St. Francis had no records pertaining to Willie Gibson receiving treatment there. 

Contemporaneous newspaper articles indicated that victims Willie Gibson and Ernest McPharland resided on Calypso Street.  The FBI visited Calypso Street and searched the Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor’s Office records but did not locate the numerical address listed in the paper or any record of any Gibson living on that street since 1994.[4]

The FBI contacted officials at the Monroe Police Department (MPD) and the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO).  The MPD had no relevant records and the OPSO did not have automated records dating back to the time of the shooting.  A preliminary search of the OPSO determined subject Zennie Fuller’s date of birth as November 11, 1920.

The FBI obtained death certificates for Zennie and William Fuller from the Louisiana Center for Records and Statistics.  According to the certificates, Zennie Fuller died on March 7, 1987, and William Fuller died on November 6, 2005.

Legal Analysis

This matter does not constitute a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes.  First, the federal government cannot prosecute the subjects because they are deceased. 

Second, prior to 1994, federal criminal civil rights violations were not capital offenses, thereby subjecting them to a five-year statute of limitations.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3282(a).  In 1994, some of these civil rights statutes, including 18 U.S.C. § 245, were amended to provide the

death penalty for violations resulting in death, thereby eliminating the statute of limitations. 

See 18 U.S.C. § 3281 (“An indictment for any offense punishable by death may be found at

any time without limitation.”).  However, the Ex Post Facto Clause prohibits the retroactive application of the 1994 increase in penalties and the resultant change in the statute of limitations to the detriment  of criminal defendants.  Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607, 611 (2003).  While the Civil Rights Division has used non-civil rights statutes to overcome the statute of limitations challenge in certain cases, such as those occurring on federal land and kidnaping resulting in death, the facts of the present case do not lend themselves to prosecution under other statutes. 

Based on the foregoing, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.  Additionally, because the subjects are deceased, this matter will not be forwarded to the state for prosecutive review.  United States Attorney William J. Flanagan, Western District of Louisiana, concurs in this recommendation.

 


 

[1] The three victims shot by William were likely Albert Pitts, David Pitts, and Marshall Johns.

[2] According to XXXXXXX was not a member of the Klan prior to the shootings but sought support from the Klan after receiving threats following the shootings.  Fuller became very active in the Klan in the 1960's and ultimately became a Grand Dragon.

[3] The FBI case agent contacted XXXXXX via retired XXXXXXXX who had met XXXXXXX at a Christian retreat ten years prior.

[4] XXXXXXXX told the FBI that he thought Willie Gibson is deceased.

Attachments: 
Updated September 29, 2016