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

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

Cases

Displaying 1 - 40 of 118
Title Incident Date Overview
Emmett Till August 28, 1955

In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black youth visiting family in Mississippi, was murdered by white men after XXXXX claimed that Till had propositioned her. Till, who was from Chicago, Illinois, visited relatives near Money, Mississippi, during the summer of 1955. On August 24 of that year, he entered XXXX’s Grocery & Meat Market and had an interaction with XXXXX, XXXXX. Accounts differ as to precisely what happened during that encounter. Black witnesses who had accompanied Till to the store reported—both near the time of the incident and more recently—that Till’s behavior was limited to whistling at XXXXX as she left the store. XXXXX, however, alleged that Till was physically aggressive towards her and that he propositioned her. What is clear from all accounts is that XXXXX suffered no physical harm and that Till’s conduct was likely perceived by many in the white community to violate their unwritten code, prevalent in the Jim Crow South, that Black men were forbidden from initiating interactions with white women. Four days later, Till was forcibly abducted from his relatives’ home by at least two men. His brutally beaten body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River. Because there did not appear to be a basis for federal jurisdiction given the limited scope of the civil rights statutes in effect in 1955, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not investigate Till’s murder at that time. Mississippi state authorities, however, arrested two men:  XXXXX’s XXXX, Roy Bryant, and XXXX, John William (J.W.) Milam. They were indicted for murder and tried by a local, all-white jury, which quickly acquitted them. Following their acquittal, the men admitted to a journalist that they murdered Till in part because of his earlier actions toward XXXXX. Both Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam are now deceased.

Clyde Briggs January 18, 1965

On January 16, 1965, Reverend Clyde Briggs, a veteran, church leader, and civil rights advocate, was admitted to the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Jackson, Mississippi for several underlying medical conditions. Briggs’ condition deteriorated over the course of his hospitalization and he was pronounced dead on January 18, 1965 following an emergency tracheostomy.

Anthony Adams November 6, 1978

On November 6, 1978, the body of Anthony Adams, a 25-year-old African-American gay man, was discovered in his apartment in Salt Lake City, Utah.  After failing to hear from him for several days, two friends went to Adams’ apartment and discovered his body, naked and stabbed numerous times.  His apartment was in disarray and cash was missing from his wallet.

Eddie Cook November 7, 1965

On November 7, 1965, Eddie Cook, a 53-year-old sanitation worker and father of three, was shot in the chest by a shotgun blast near his home in the midtown section of Detroit, Michigan.  The shot was fired from a car filled with four or five white youths.  At the time, the police believed that the shot was in retaliation for an unrelated incident earlier that day.  Despite a thorough, contemporaneous investigation, the Detroit Police Department did not identify who fired the shot that killed Mr. Cook, or any of the passengers of the car.  

Jo Etha Collier May 25, 1971

Jo Etha Collier, an African-American young woman and recent high school graduate, was fatally shot by XXXXX in Drew, Mississippi, on the evening of May 25, 1971.  XXXXX and two other men – XXXX (XXXX) and XXXX (XXX XXX) – were driving past Ms. Collier when she was shot and killed.  The state arrested the three men and charged them with murder.  XXXXX was tried before a jury in October 1971, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The state later dropped the charges against XXXX and XXXX.  For the reasons stated more fully below, this matter should be closed without prosecution or referral.  The statute of limitations has long run on any federal civil rights crime and Ms. Collier’s death does not implicate any other federal crimes.  Referral to the state for prosecution is inappropriate because the Double Jeopardy clause of the United States Constitution would bar a subsequent state prosecution of XXXXX, and because the state previously determined that XXXX and XXXX could not be held legally responsible for the shooting. 

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. 

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.

Frank Andrews November 28, 1964

On November 28, 1964, Frank Andrews, a 27 year-old African American man, was shot in the back by XXXXXX, a white Choctaw County, Alabama, Sheriff’s Deputy, outside of Smith’s Café in Lisman, Alabama.  XXXXXXXXXX Deputy William Elmore “Bo” Clark were at the Café investigating the possession and consumption of illegal whisky.  According to a statement given by XXXXX in 1964, XXX shot Andrews in the back as Andrews was being questioned by W. Clark.  XXXXXX claimed that Andrews drew a knife out of his pocket and made aggressive moves toward W. Clark, causing XXXXX to fire XXX weapon.

Andrew Lee Anderson August 5, 1963

On August 5, 1963, Andrew Anderson, the 16-year-old African-American victim, was shot and killed with a high-powered rifle while trying to run from a group of white men and Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies.  At a subsequent coroner’s inquest, the mother of an eight-year-old white girl testified that she witnessed the victim chasing after her daughter, who was hysterical and covered in mud.  According to the mother’s testimony, the daughter got into her mother’s car and told her mother that the victim had sexually assaulted her.

Rodell Williamson May 22, 1967

On May 22, 1967, victim Rodell Williamson’s body was found in the Alabama River, snagged in a fisherman’s trot line and clad only in trousers.  The victim had been missing for approximately two days.  An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was drowning, and there were no signs of trauma to the victim’s body.  The manner of death was classified as “accidental.”

Isadore Banks June 8, 1954

On June 8, 1954, the charred remains of victim Isadore Banks, a 59-year-old
African-American man, were found chained to a tree in a wooded area near Marion, Arkansas.  Media reports at the time detailed the finding of the victim’s remains and the subsequent investigation into his murder.

William Moore

A federal criminal civil rights violation cannot be proven because there is insufficient independent eyewitness corroboration of allegations.  There is no federal jurisdiction because of the expired statute of limitations.

Claude Neal October 26, 1934

On October 26, 1934, Claude Neal, the 23-year-old African-American victim, was brutally lynched by a group of white men who had stormed the county jail in Brewton, Alabama where the victim was being held after confessing to the murder of a 20-year-old white woman in Greenwood, Florida.  Following the victim’s removal from his jail cell, the men brought the victim back to Florida, tortured him for several hours in the woods, then murdered him.  The members of the lynching party then tied the victim’s body to the back of an automobile and dragged the body to the home of the deceased woman’s family where a large mob had gathered. 

Joseph Franklin Jeter, Sr. September 13, 1958

On September 13, 1958, Joseph Franklin Jeter, Sr., the African-American victim, was shot and killed by Atlanta Police Department (APD) Officer W.O. Dempsey.  Shortly before the shooting, Dempsey, and subjects Lieutenant Ellis Barrett, Officer Ned C. Oliver, Officer Andrew W. Jones, and Officer David R. Turner responded to a report of a man, later identified as XXXXXXX, pointing a gun inside a drug store.  The subject officers reported that when they arrested XXXXX and placed him in a patrol car, a very large crowd approached and began yelling at them.  Among them was XXXXX, the victim XXXXX.  The officers claimed that The above numbered file has been closed as of this date.

Willie Countryman May 25, 1958

On May 25, 1958, at about 1:30 a.m., Dawson Police Department (DPD) Officers Weyman Cherry and Robert Hancock, the subjects, entered the yard of Willie Countryman, the African-American victim, reportedly to investigate a suspicious noise.  The subjects claimed that the victim jumped from behind a tree and cut Cherry’s cap with a knife, whereupon Cherry broke free and shot the victim.  Countryman sustained a gunshot wound to the stomach and was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

James Brazier April 20, 1958

On April 20, 1958, James Brazier, the African-American victim, was arrested by Dawson Police Department (DPD) Officers Weyman Cherry and Randolph McDonald, the subjects, for “interfering” with the earlier arrest of XXXXXXXXXXX.  Subject Cherry admitted that he struck the victim on the head with a “blackjack” (a short, leather-covered club, consisting of a heavy head on a flexible handle), during the arrest, but he claimed that he acted in self-defense when Brazier resisted arrest by swinging at him and subject McDonald.

Maceo Snipes July 18, 1946

On July 18, 1946, Maceo Snipes, the victim, an African-American World War II veteran,  was shot and fatally wounded by a white man, Edward Williamson, in Butler, Georgia.  Present at the time of the shooting was at least one other white man, Lynwood Harvey.  A friend of the victim’s family took him to Montgomery Hospital in Butler, where he died on July 20, 1946.

A.C. Hall December 1, 1966

On the night of October 13, 1962, Macon, Georgia, Police Department (MPD) Officers James L. Durden and XXXXXX, the subjects, shot and killed A.C. Hall, the 17-year-old African-American victim.  The subjects claimed that they fired at the victim, who ran from them and who they believed to be armed, when he turned toward them and appeared to reach for a weapon.

Alphonso Harris December 1, 1966

According to a December 1, 1966, Albany Herald newspaper article, at about 1:25 a.m. on that date, Alphonso Harris, a 36-year-old African-American member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SPLC), was shot and killed while grappling over a pistol held by XXXX, an African-American XXXXXXXXXX, outside the Les Ames Club in Albany, Georgia.  According to the article, the incident began when a man named XXXX bumped into XXXX’s girlfriend inside the club and they began to argue.  Sometime during the argument, XXXX exited the club, and retrieved a pistol from his car. XXXX then approached the table where the victim was sitting with XXXXXXXXXXXXXX and told them that he thought he was about to be shot.  The victim and the three other men exited the club with XXXX and ran into XXXX, who was returning to the club, armed with a pistol.

James Andrew Miller August 30, 1964

According to a report of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), on August 30, 1964, James Andrew Miller, the African-American victim, was shot and killed by a white man, later identified as John Lo Whitaker, the subject, in Jackson, Georgia.  According to an article in the Jackson Progress-Argus, the shooting occurred in the early morning hours of August 30, after a group of African-American youths, which included the victim, stopped and threw rocks at a car occupied by a white couple and XXXXXXXX (XXXXXXXX).  Whitaker, who was driving his  pickup truck behind the XXXXXXXX car and was also forced to stop, claimed that he fired two shots at the victim when the victim tried to open his truck door.
The victim was transported to nearby Sylvan Grove Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Willie Joe Sanford March 1, 1957

According to a number of articles in the Baltimore, Maryland Afro-American newspaper, on March 1, 1957, the water-logged, naked body of Willie Joe Sanford, the victim, was raised from Limestone Creek, a few miles from Hawkinsville, Georgia. The victim was a 24-year-old sawmill worker. His hands had been tied over his head and his body had been wired to undergrowth in the creek. The victim’s skull had been fractured by a blunt instrument and he had been stabbed numerous times in the chest, stomach and back. An autopsy determined that the victim, who had been missing since February 2, 1957, had likely been in the creek for about 30 days.

Carie Brumfield September 12, 1967

Notice to Close File[1]

On September 12, 1967, Carie Brumfield, an African-American shipyard worker, was found shot to death in his car on a deserted rural road near Franklinton, Louisiana.  Brumfield had died of a single .22 caliber revolver gunshot wound to the chest.

In 2007, 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.”


[1] Memo amended on June 11, 2021.

Marshall Scott, Jr. January 23, 1965

On January 23, 1965, Marshall Scott, Jr., an African-American laborer, died while in his solitary confinement cell at the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) in New Orleans, Louisiana.  According to Scott’s death certificate, he died as a result of “confluent brochopneumonia.”
The FBI interviewed Scott’s XXXX in July 2007.  XX stated that X believed that XXX  had been beaten to death, and that XX suspicion was based on the fact that XX saw bruises on Scott’s body when XXXX received it for burial.  XXX stated that no one had ever told XX that XXXX was beaten and XX knew of no one who may have any evidence to substantiate XX allegations.

Isaiah Henry July 28, 1954

According to a November 11, 2007, article in The Advocate (the article), on July 28, 1954, Isaiah Henry, a 38-year-old African-American school-bus driver and farmer, was found severely beaten on the side of a road in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana.  Henry, who helped his African-American neighbors prepare for voter registration tests, had voted in the Democratic primary the day before.  He was taken to a hospital in New Orleans, where doctors placed a metal plate in his head and where he stayed for several weeks.  Henry died on May 2, 1973, of causes unrelated to the beating.

Frank Morris December 10, 1964

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on December 10, 1964, two unidentified white males set fire to a shoe repair shop in Ferriday, Louisiana, that was owned by Frank Morris, a 51-year-old African-American man.  Morris, who was sleeping in a room in the back of the shop, was awakened by the noise of breaking glass.  Morris went into his shop and opened the front door of his shop, where he encountered one of the subjects holding a shotgun who ordered him back inside.  The subjects broke the windows and spread a flammable liquid around the outside of the shop, and evidence indicates that the subjects may have spread the flammable liquid inside of the shop before Morris was awakened.  One of the men struck a match and set the shop on fire.  The fire resulted in an explosion.  Morris escaped the shop but sustained burns to 100% of his body.  Morris was taken to a local hospital by two local law enforcement officers.  He was able to speak to investigators but could not identify the two men.  Morris died at approximately 7:30 p.m. on December 14, 1964. 

Albert Pitts - David Pitts - Marshall Johns - Ernest McPharland - Willie Gibson July 13, 1960

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

John Wesley Wilder July 17, 1965

On July 17, 1965, John Wesley Wilder, the 32-year-old African-American victim, was shot and killed by Ruston Police Department (RPD) XXXXXXXXXXX  According to the subject’s account XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX were on duty on the night of the shooting.   The FBI did not locate XXXXXX but it did interview XXXXX who did not recall being on duty but stated that the subject told him that he had to fire five times and that the subject was bothered by the shooting.  Similarly, former RPD XXXXXXXX who was working for the RPD at the time of the shooting, opined that XXXXXX had not wanted to shoot the victim.

Joseph “JoEd” Edwards July 12, 1964

In the early morning hours of July 12, 1964, Joseph “JoEd” Edwards, an African-American resident of Natchez, Mississippi, in his early 20s, was seen leaving work at the end of his shift as a porter at the Shamrock Motel (the Shamrock) in Vidalia, Louisiana Although unclear, Edwards may have been seen by a friend on the evening of July 12, and by XXXXXX with whom XXX was living the next evening, July 13.  On July 19, 1964, Edwards XXXXXX, reported XXXXXX missing to the Vidalia Police Department (VPD).  On July 21, 1964, XXXXXX made a similar report to the Natchez Police Department (NPD).

 

Donald Raspberry February 27, 1965

On February 27, 1965, Donald Raspberry, the 19-year-old African-American victim, was shot and killed by his employer, Garland H. “Dick” Anderson, the subject, inside Anderson’s home in Okolona, Mississippi.  In March 2009, XXXXXX, who was called to Anderson’s home after the shooting, told the FBI that XXX had found the victim lying in the entryway of the den, with a gunshot wound to the chest.  XXXXX stated that XXX also noted that the screen of the back porch window had been removed.

Booker T. Mixon October 12, 1959

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into this matter after a query of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History found multiple news articles about the unusual circumstances surrounding the death of thirty-six-year-old Booker T. Mixon (“Mixon”) in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  According to the articles, on October 12, 1959, Mixon was found lying unconscious in a ditch near a local road, suffering from numerous injuries.  Mixon died eleven days later, without ever having regained consciousness.  The coroner’s office ruled that Mixon’s death was the result of a hit-and-run automobile accident. 

Clinton Melton December 3, 1955

On December 3, 1955, Clinton Melton, the African-American victim, was shot and killed by Elmer Otis Kimbell, the subject, at a Glendora, Mississippi, gas station where the victim was employed.  The subject was charged and tried on a state murder charge.  At the trial, Kimbell claimed that he shot the victim in self-defense after the victim shot at him three times, wounding him in the shoulder.  The subject admitted that the shooting occurred after an argument between him and the victim over the amount of gasoline the victim had pumped into his car.  XXXXX XXXXXX testified that after the argument over the amount of gasoline, Kimbell told XXXXXXX that he planned to go home, retrieve a gun, and come back to kill both the victim and XXXXXX.

Birdia Keglar - Adlena Hamlett January 11, 1966

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into this matter based on a referral from the NAACP in the form of an April 2007, article titled “Still Burning,” published in the British newspaper The Guardian.  According to the article, on January 11, 1966, a car occupied by a group of voting-rights advocates crashed on a road near Sidon, Mississippi.
Birdia Keglar and Adlena Hamlett, the African-American victims, died in the crash.  The driver of the car, Grafton Gray (African-American), and the other two passengers, Jessie James Brewer (African-American) and XXXXXXXXX, were injured but survived.  The accident occurred when the car occupied by the victims was struck by another car, driven by Brown Bruce, Jr. (Caucasion); Bruce, Jr. also survived the accident. 

George Lee May 7, 1955

On May 7, 1955, at about 11:45 p.m., Reverend George Lee, an African-American minister active in voter registration drives, was shot and fatally wounded in the face, while driving on Church Street in Belzoni, Mississippi.  As a result of the shooting, the victim crashed his car into the house of neighborhood resident XXXXXXXX.  Following the crash, the victim exited his car, and a taxi that was driving by stopped to assist Lee and transported him to a nearby hospital where, upon arrival, staff determined that he was deceased.  Eyewitnesses on Church Street indicated that the shooters were traveling in a convertible that was initially following the victim’s car and then passed it on the right side and sped away.  The majority of the witnesses stated that they heard two shots, and a few heard three shots.

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