June 8th, 1966
Former Klansman Indicted for 30-Year-Old Mississippi Murder
On June 8, 2000, Ernest Henry Avants was indicted by a federal grand jury for the 1966 murder of Ben Chester White in Natchez, Mississippi. Avants, James Jones, and Claude Fuller – all believed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan – murdered White on June 10, 1966, in an attempt to lure Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the community, where they planned to assassinate him.
According to the testimony of James Jones, who confessed to police, the three men approached White, a 67-year-old black sharecropper, and asked him to help them find a missing dog. They then drove White to an abandoned area in Homochitto National Forest and, when White refused to get out of the car and began begging for his life, Fuller shot him repeatedly. Afterwards, Avants shot White in the head with a shotgun and the three men dumped his lifeless body near Pretty Creek.
White’s murder went unsolved until local police began investigating a car fire, and suspected the car was the same one that had driven to the bridge where he was killed. Eventually the car owner, James Jones, admitted his part in the murder – but later denied giving the confession. The three men were charged with murder in state court in 1967: Jones’ case ended in a mistrial; Fuller claimed to suffer from severe illness and never stood trial; and Ernest Avants was acquitted.
More than 30 years later, because White was murdered on federal land, the United States initiated federal murder charges against Avants; by then, Jones and Fuller were deceased. In June 2000, a federal grand jury indicted Avants for aiding and abetting White's murder. In 2003, Avants was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. He died in prison one year later, at the age of 72.
June 8th, 2016
No Indictment For Police Officer Who Shot Texas College Student
On June 8, 2016, the grand jury voted not to indict Brian Miller, a white police trainee, for shooting and killing Christian Taylor on August 7, 2015.
Taylor, a 19-year-old black man, was a student and football player at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. On the night he was killed, police officers claimed they arrived at a car dealership in response to reports of a suspected burglary and saw Taylor vandalizing cars via surveillance video. Brian Miller entered the dealership building without his partner, though his partner was more experienced and Miller’s training officer.
Neither officer was wearing a body camera, and no footage exists to explain how an altercation erupted between Miller and Taylor; as the second officer entered and attempted to use a taser to subdue Taylor – who was unarmed – Brian Miller shot him four times in the neck, chest, and abdomen. According to Police Chief Johnson, Taylor never made any physical contact with either officer on scene. Nevertheless, he was killed.
Christian Taylor was a strong supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and on social media he often expressed fear of the police and criticism of the justice system. In August 2014, he tweeted: “I don’t feel protected by the police,” and in December 2014, he tweeted, “Police taking black lives as easy as flippin a coin, with no consequences.” Shortly before his shooting, in April 2015, he tweeted: “I don’t wanna die too young.”
Taylor’s death came only two days before the one year anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brian Miller was fired from the police force on August 11, 2015 for “inappropriate judgment” in handling the situation, but has not faced prosecution for the murder of Christian Taylor.