Civil Rights Division Emmett Till Act (Cold Case Closing Memoranda)

Civil Rights Division Emmett Till Act (Cold Case Closing Memoranda)


Displaying 1 - 10 of 116
Title Incident Date Overview
Lee Edward Culbreath December 5, 1965

On December 5, 1965, Lee Edward Culbreath, a 14-year-old African-American boy, was killed in Portland, Arkansas, by Ed Vail, who shot at Culbreath from a truck driven by his brother, James.   

Elbert Williams June 20, 1940

     On June 20, 1940, Elbert Williams and Thomas Davis, both African-American men who were members of the NAACP in Brownsville, Tennessee, were abducted from their homes by Sheriff Samuel “Tip” Hunter, taken to the local jail, and questioned about the NAACP’s activities.  Thomas Davis was released from jail into a waiting mob, but escaped unharmed.  Williams’s body was discovered three days later, on June 23, 1940, in the Hatchie River.  Just a few days before Williams and Thomas Davis were abducted, Thomas’s brother Elisha Davis had been abducted from his home by Sheriff Hunter, Police Officer Charles Reed, and a mob of white men.  Elisha Davis was taken to a nearby river where he was questioned about the NAACP’s activities and told he would be killed unless he left town, which he did immediately.  Another African-American man, Jack Adams, was brought to the river at the same time that Elisha Davis was threatened, but Adams was released unharmed.  The men subject to abduction were all either founding members, or suspected members, of the recently-formed NAACP chapter in Brownsville.  Chapter members had begun voter-registration efforts in the African-American community just a few months before the abductions began.

Louis Allen January 31, 1964

     On January 31, 1964, Louis Allen (Allen), an African-American male born April 25, 1919, was murdered in his driveway as he was opening the gate to his home in Amite County, near Liberty, Mississippi.  Allen suffered extensive trauma from three shotgun blasts to the head.  Allen’s body was discovered shortly after midnight by his XXX, XXXXX (XXXXX) and his XXXX, XXXXX (XXXXX).  XXXXX and XXXXX immediately drove to the home of Amite County Sheriff, Daniel Jones (Jones), advised Jones of their discovery and requested Jones’ assistance.  Jones contacted Dr. Bridges (Bridges), informed him that Allen had been shot, and asked that Bridges accompany him to the Allen residence. 

Freddie Lee Thomas August 19, 1965

On August 19, 1965, the body of Freddie Lee Thomas, the victim, was discovered in the middle of Highway 29 in Greenwood, Mississippi.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted a full investigation and determined that Thomas apparently stepped into oncoming traffic while intoxicated. Allegations were made by XXXXXXX, a civil rights worker, that Thomas was killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), however, the FBI investigation did not substantiate these claims.

Ollie Shelby, Jr. January 22, 1965

According to contemporaneous articles in the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger newspaper, on January 22, 1965, Ollie Shelby, Jr., the 18-year-old African-American victim, was shot and killed by Hinds County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) Deputy E.O. Sanderford, the subject, at the Hinds County Jail.  The victim had been transferred to the jail after being charged with making an obscene gesture at a white woman.  At a local Coroner’s Inquest, Jackson Police Department (JPD) XXXXXXX testified that, on the day of the shooting, he and XXXXXXX were transferring the victim and six other inmates from the city to the county jail.  According to XXXXX, the victim first tried to escape by pushing XXXXX out of the jail elevator.

James Earl Motley November 20, 1966

On November 20, 1966, at approximately 3:30 a.m., James Motley, the 27-year-old African-American victim, died in the Elmore County jail (the jail) as a result of head injuries.  Earlier that morning, Elmore County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) Deputy Harvey Conner, the subject, had stopped the car in which the victim was a passenger for a traffic violation.  During the course of the traffic stop, the victim told the subject that he did not have jurisdiction because the traffic violation had occurred in a different county.  The subject was reportedly offended by this comment and ordered the victim to exit the vehicle.  The victim complied, whereupon the subject hit the victim in the head several times with a slapjack or similar object. 

Hilliard Brooks August 12, 1950

On August 12, 1950, Montgomery Police Department (MPD) Officer Marvin Mills, the white subject, fatally shot Hilliard Brooks, the 22-year-old African-American victim, in the abdomen on a crowded street in Montgomery, Alabama.  The victim died from his injuries the following day.  According to media reports, the shooting occurred at approximately 3:45 p.m., after the victim created a disturbance on a bus and used foul language in front of female passengers.  The bus driver requested assistance from the subject, who was patrolling nearby as a traffic officer.

Johnnie Robinson September 15, 1963

On September 15, 1963, Johnnie Robinson, the 16-year-old, African-American victim, was fatally shot in the back by Birmingham Police Department (BPD) Officer Jack Parker, the subject.  Earlier that day, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, resulting in the death of four African-American girls.  The bombing sparked racial rioting and unrest throughout the city. Police officers claimed that the victim was among a group of African-American  youths who were throwing stones at a car containing several white youths who were flying Confederate flags. When officers arrived at the scene; the African-American  youths began to flee.

Jonathan Myrick Daniels August 20, 1965

On August 20, 1965, Lowndes County Sheriff s Office (LCSO) Special Deputy Thomas Coleman, the subject, fatally shot Jonathan Daniels, the victim. Earlier that day, the 26-year-old victim, a white seminary student, was released from the jail in Hayneville, Alabama where he had been detained following a voting rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama. The victim was released from the jail along with XXXXXXXXXX, who was a XXXXXXXXXX, and two young African-American women.

Willie Edwards, Jr January 22, 1957

On the evening of January 22, 1957, Willie Edwards, Jr., a 24-year-old African-American father of two and a truck driver for Winn-Dixie in Montgomery, Alabama, disappeared.  On April 23, 1957, fishermen discovered Edwards’ body in the Alabama River ten miles west of Montgomery.  An autopsy was performed and the medical examiner could not determine the cause of death.  A local investigation failed to yield any suspects.  The case remained dormant until 1976, when local investigators questioning XXXXXXXXXXX regarding another crime asked if XXXX knew anything concerning Edwards’s disappearance.  XXXX admitted being present when three men, Henry Alexander, Jimmy York, and Raymond Britt, forced Edwards to jump off the Tyler-Goodwyn bridge to his death.  Britt, York, and Alexander are now deceased but were living at the time of XXXX statement.  After taking XXXX statement, the State of Alabama reopened the investigation.  In January 1976, Alabama Attorney General William J. Baxley signed immunity agreements with Britt and York in exchange for their testimony.


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