The so-called “Fayetteville Murders” that occurred near Fort Bragg in North Carolina exposed an ugly undercurrent of racism in the nation’s military. Michael James and Jackie Burden were senselessly gunned down by a trio of white soldiers as they walked down a dirt road in Fayetteville.

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The incident took place on December 7, 1995. Soldiers Norman Burmeister, Malcolm Wright, and Randy Meadows were out drinking that night. The soldiers, who belonged to the 82nd Airborne, an elite infantry unit, plotted to go into town and harass Black people in the predominantly white city. When the soldiers encountered James, 36, and Burden, 22, walking together, they gunned them down.

The case caught the attention of local and national media, exposing the little-known truth that white supremacist groups had begun infiltrating the military. In the wake of the murders, 22 soldiers found to be involved in extremist groups were dismissed from the service. Fellow soldiers and officials condemned the crime, referring to the men as “dirt bags” and more.

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Justice was served in 1997 after Burmeister, the gunman, and Wright were both charged with first-degree murder. Both men are currently serving life sentences for their crimes. During his trial, Burmeister showed no remorse and did not apologize for his actions. Wright later apologized for his role in the crime, saying that he was a “bad person” as he spoke to the jury.

James’ mother forgave the men for their actions, although she questioned why anyone would do such a thing. It has been alleged that Burmeister hoped to earn a spider tattoo as part of a neo-Nazi initiation rite.

Meadows, the third soldier in the murder, was charged with conspiracy.

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