Pasadena, CA– In February 2007, the FBI officially launched a new investigative effort called the Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative, which was tasked with taking a fresh look at racially motivated homicide investigations that occurred prior to 1970. Since then, over 100 cold cases have been identified for this initiative as the FBI partnered with local and state authorities, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Urban League to help investigate these aging unsolved cases and bring justice to the victims’ families.
In an effort to bring attention to these important investigations, Investigation Discovery teamed with critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, producer of The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, and CBS EYE Productions to showcase three cases included in the FBI’s Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative. In commemoration of Black History Month, Investigation Discovery launched The Injustice Files, on February.
PHOTO: Keith Beauchamp talks with Amanda Pigott and Teandrea Moore. Teandrea’s father, Deputy Sheriff Oneal Moore, was murdered in 1965 and her high school classmate Amanda opens up about details of the murder being discussed in Amanda’s house when she was a child in Episode 2: The Ghosts of Bogalusa.
Photo credit: Investigation Discovery
Beauchamp found his calling as a filmmaker through his documentary about the story of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who in August 1955 was abducted and tortured to death because he whistled at a white woman. Suspects were arrested for the murder, but they were all acquitted by all white juries. This story of a young boy, who was beaten, shot, and thrown in a river, ignited the early civil rights movement. Decades later, the case was re-opened by the FBI because Beauchamp uncovered new information, bolstered by his ability as a filmmaker to reach deep into the communities where these crimes occurred and connect with potential witnesses who otherwise might not come forward.
PHOTO: Archival photo of Wharlest Jackson and his family from Episode 1: The Secrets of Natchez.
Photo credit: Investigation Discovery
Since his experience making The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, Beauchamp has become passionate about seeking justice for these families and assisting the FBI by developing new leads for some of their unsolved cases from this troubled chapter in American history. For The Injustice Files, Beauchamp combs through records; interviews family members, witnesses and investigators; and pieces together the known facts of each case. Beauchamp attempts to interview potential suspects and individuals who may know who was responsible for these murders, sometimes confronting them in their driveways after attempts to contact them for interviews prove unsuccessful.
“Notwithstanding the wisdom of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said that ‘justice delayed is justice denied,’ The Injustice Files re-examines some of the most shocking and heinous cold cases from America’s Civil Rights Era – the hate crimes of their time,” said Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of Investigation Discovery. “We are thrilled to be working with Keith Beauchamp, one of America’s leading investigative documentarians, and the venerable team working with CBS News’ Susan Zirinsky as partners on The Injustice Files. This series shines a spotlight on these unsolved mysteries that haunt our shared history and helps raise awareness that there are still perpetrators out there and people with information need to step forward and assist the FBI to bring closure for the families and communities scarred by these despicable acts.”
Cynthia Deitle, Unit Chief for the Civil Rights Unit of the FBI, is interviewed for The Injustice Files and provides context to the ongoing efforts the FBI has dedicated to bringing closure to cases included in the Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative. As Beauchamp explores the stories behind these horrific crimes, Unit Chief Deitle hopes the additional attention for these cases might provide new leads and witnesses willing to share information that may lead to finding who is ultimately responsible. Time has passed, witnesses have disappeared and memories have faded, but Beauchamp’s efforts are developing new opportunities for justice to be served. The Injustice Files profiles the following three cases:
The Secrets of Natchez – Running through March
After taking a promotion at the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Factory in Natchez, Mississippi, Wharlest Jackson, father of five and treasurer for the local chapter of the NAACP, was murdered with a car bomb. Hearing the explosion, Wharlest Jackson’s son rode his bike to the scene of the crime and unfortunately witnessed the results of this sophisticated murder plot.
The Ghosts of Bogalusa – World Premiere: Friday, February 25 at 9PM ET
The first two African-American police officers in Bogalusa, Louisiana were gunned down while on patrol. Deputy Sheriff Oneal Moore died instantly, but Deputy Sheriff David Creed Rogers was able to call in a description of the pick-up truck used in the drive-by shooting.
He Walked Alone – World Premiere: Friday, March 4 at 9PM ET
William Lewis Moore was an activist who planned a peaceful protest – a solo Freedom Walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to hand deliver a letter to the Governor of Mississippi urging for full human rights to African Americans. Despite friends, family and law enforcement warning him about the dangers of the journey, Moore started his walk, which ended when his body was found on the side of a road in Alabama.
The Injustice Files: The Ghosts of Bogalusa
World Premiere: Friday, February 25 at 9PM ET
On a warm Louisiana evening in June, 1965, Deputy Sheriffs Oneal Moore and David Creed Rogers, the first two black deputy sheriffs ever appointed in Washington Parish, were attacked in a drive-by shooting. While patrolling a black neighborhood in the town of Bogalusa, a racial tinderbox dominated by the KKK, a pickup truck pulled up behind their patrol car and men in the back began shooting. Moore was killed instantly, while Rogers was hit in the shoulder and lost his right eye in the ambush. Wounded but able to radio a description of the truck into sheriff’s headquarters, Rogers’ act led to police arresting Ernest Ray McElveen, a known member of the KKK, who was found shortly after the crime driving a truck matching Rogers’ description. Charges against McElveen were dropped a few weeks later and none of the other suspects were ever arrested. The FBI reopened the case several times, but has been unable to find evidence to prosecute any of the people widely believed to be involved.
In this episode of The Injustice Files, Beauchamp is in search of new leads armed with 45 years of FBI case files. He travels to Bogalusa, to meet with Moore’s wife and family. Searching for people who actually know something about that night, Beauchamp talks to a man who says he was an eyewitness to the ambush and who identifies the alleged killers in the pickup truck. In a surprising development, Beauchamp also interviews a granddaughter of one of the men suspected to be involved and she shares family secrets that may help unlock this cold case.
The Injustice Files: He Walked Alone
World Premiere: Friday, March 4 at 9PM ET
William Lewis Moore was known as a loner, introvert and a quiet activist who fought silently for the rights of others. On April 21, 1963, Moore embarked on what he thought would be a peaceful protest, a one man Freedom Walk through the Deep South. Moore started in Chattanooga, Tennessee and planned on walking to Jackson, Mississippi to hand deliver a letter to the Governor of Mississippi urging him to grant full human rights to African Americans. Although most Freedom Walks were conducted with large groups in hopes of gaining attention for a particular cause, Moore undertook his solitary protest despite several attempts by law enforcement, family and friends trying to warn him about the dangers of the journey.
Moore’s body was found on the side of a road in Alabama, just days into his march. His killers have never been found. In this episode of The Injustice Files, Keith Beauchamp interviews Moore’s stepchildren, Mississippi activists, historians and a retired FBI agent to try to determine the story behind the death. Beauchamp’s work culminates in a compelling interview with a former KKK leader, who reveals details about the final day of Moore’s life and shares his own theory about the crime.