North Carolina Sherriff Accused of Racial Profiling Shared Racist Jokes, Video Game With Staff

The United States Department of Justice has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County, North Carolina Sheriff Terry S. Johnson. According to Federal prosecutors deputies of a North Carolina sheriff accused of illegally targeting Latino drivers shared links to a violent and bloody (unnamed) video game in which players shoot people entering the country illegally, including children and pregnant women.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department filed documents this week in their complaint against Sheriff Johnson, who they allege violated the civil rights of citizens and legal residents by detaining and arresting Latinos without probable cause. Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to find in their favor without a trial, citing "extensive evidence of racial bias."

Johnson's lawyer said in an email to the Associated Press that the sheriff denies the allegations. His lawyers filed their own motion seeking to have the case dismissed.

"Sheriff Johnson and his office have not engaged in a pattern or practice of intentionally treating Latinos differently due to their ethnicity," Chuck Kitchen wrote in the motion.

But according to the government's motion, a high-ranking deputy within the Sherriff's department emailed out a link to the violent game.

"Captain Mario Wiley emailed several other ACSO employees a link to a game premised on shooting stereotypical Mexican figures, including pregnant women and children, as they attempt to cross the U.S. border," the motion reads. "Blood splatters on the screen as the figures are shot, and the final screen of the game shows how many 'wetbacks' one has killed."

The complaint also alleges that other deputies, including supervisors and the agency's designated media spokesman, traded messages that included racist jokes.

"Sergeant Darryl Myers and Lieutenant Wesley Anderson each forwarded an email joking that when Davey Crockett saw 'hordes of Mexicans' approaching the Alamo, he asked 'are we having landscaping done today?'" according to the court filing.

In another email, training officer Richard Longamore allegedly forwarded an email to the sheriff and his chief deputy complaining about a federal program that provides temporary visas to foreign nationals who are the victims of such violent crimes as rape, incest and torture.

According to federal officials, Johnson himself referred to Latinos as "taco eaters," said that they were prone to drinking, dealing drugs, and other crimes. He also supposedly ordered special roadblocks in neighborhoods where Latinos lived, during which those with brown skin were stopped while whites were waved through. The government claims that his deputies, were ten times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latinos, according to its review of the department's traffic stop records. Hispanics make up 11 percent of the population in Alamance County. The government also pointed out the sworn deposition of former deputy Adam Nicholson, who recounted the sheriff using racist slurs as he directed officers to arrest Latinos during a raid on a trailer park.

In his motion to dismiss the case, the sheriff's attorney claim to have never heard any officers using the racial epitaphs "wetback" or "spic" – and if they had they would have disciplined anyone who used those terms. The sheriff's motion also disputes that there is any evidence that Latino drivers are stopped at a greater rate than non-Latinos in the county. It says the sheriff commissioned a study by a Duke University professor that determined that there was no evidence that racial profiling was happening in his department.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws bar police from engaging in a pattern of violating the constitutional protections of U.S. citizens or legal residents. Federal authorities are asking the court to impose sanctions intended to force Johnson to comply with federal laws. The civil complaint does not charge Johnson with a crime, and the federal court cannot remove a local ally elected official from office. Johnson is seeking election to another four-year term in November.

"The abhorrent and unconstitutional practices outlined in this motion should not be tolerated in our state and cannot be allowed to continue," Raul Pinto, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said. "All residents of Alamance County deserve fair and equal treatment from their law enforcement officers."

Source: Associated Press

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