The officers’ firing comes 15 years to the week after an infamous hate crime in Jasper, a town of about 8,000 people two hours northeast of Houston. James Byrd Jr., a black man, was tied to the back of a pickup by three white men and dragged for several miles until he was decapitated. The high-profile case triggered marches by the New Black Panthers and Ku Klux Klan.
Last year, a majority-white Jasper City Council fired the town’s first black chief after 16 months on the job. Rodney Pearson is now suing, claiming his civil rights were violated.
“It’s a different part of the world, man, it’s crazy,” said Bernsen, who’s also representing the fired police chief.
Jasper’s interim city manager confirmed the terminations, but referred questions about the Diggles case to the interim police chief, who was unreachable Monday afternoon.
“The more things change, the more they remain the same,” Jasper City Council Member Alton Scott said of the city’s racial troubles.
Scott obtained the video in the Diggles’ incident and turned it over to a local TV station after he heard that her written complaint against the officers was apparently being ignored.
“There’s nothing she said that could have justified what they did,” Scott said. “They are supposed to be trained professionals. They are supposed to be above that. It was inexcusable.”
The Jasper City Council requested that Officers Cunningham and Grissom be investigated for possible criminal charges. Bernsen would prefer that the FBI or state police conduct the investigation.
“I don’t trust the Police Department as far as you can throw them,” he told Yahoo! News.