The fate of a Michigan man accused of threatening police in an online Facebook post hangs in the balance as a county prosecutor and Michigan’s attorney general struggle over whether to criminally charge him.
According to the Detroit News, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced charges against 40-year-old Nheru Gowan Littleton at a press conference Wednesday stemming from a July 9 Facebook post encouraging his friends to “kill all white cops.”
But the charges come just two months after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to charge Littleton on the grounds that his rhetoric didn’t rise to the level of a crime.
“F them racist a— cops!!! Kill them ALL,” the Detroit man’s July 9 post read. “Black Lives Matter. Black people should start killing all white cops just like they are killing us!!! Then and only then will this s—t stop. Why you ask? Because white people will be dropping like flies!!!”
Littleton’s inflammatory post caught the attention of an “unidentified Dearborn resident” who reported it to the city’s police department. Schuette called the Detroit man’s post a “tirade of hate and violence specifically directed toward police” while Worthy argued that her client’s rhetoric was “too vague” to substantiate a legitimate threat.
“[Littleton] did not indicate that he was the one who was going to kill all white cops, and never said that his Facebook friends should kill all white cops,” she said. “Further, he did not indicate when all white officers should be killed or which white officers should be killed.”
Worthy also noted that Littleton was in Puerto Rico at the time he authored the post, not Wayne County. But her refusal to charge the Detroit man under Michigan’s terrorism statute and his being out of the country at the time of the “crime” didn’t stop Schuette from charging Littleton with making terroristic threats and using a computer to commit a crime. Each of the charges carry a minimum of 20 years behind bars, the Detroit News reports.
“The message is clear” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who stood beside the attorney general during Wednesday’s press conference. “You threaten to kill a police officer, there will be a certain response.”
According to Detroit’s ABC 13, Littleton’s case was one of three from July in which four men were arrested for making threats against police in the wake of the Dallas shooting that left five police officers dead. Worthy’s office declined to bring charges against three of the men — including Littleton — while the fourth man’s case was sent back to police due to insufficient evidence.
“[The] DPD has many fine investigators, but the work in the four Facebook cases was sub-standard,” Worthy said in a statement. “We cannot fly by the seat of our pants in charging cases.”
But Littleton’s case, along with the criminal cases against the other four men, had ACLU legal director Dan Krobokin questioning whether there would be this much of a response if the posts were about anyone other than the police.
“If not, then we have a problem,” Krobokin told news site Photography Is Not a Crime.
The Detroit man’s case also shows a major difference in the way threats against police and threats against Black Lives Matter or other pro-Black organizations are handled. Earlier this year, a top employee at New York Life Insurance threatened a Black Lives Matter leader via social media. The employee lost his job, but he was never hit with criminal charges like Littleton and the other four men.
“On behalf of the law enforcement community, we’re thankful for the attorney general’s leadership,” Detroit Police Officers Association president Mark Diaz said after Shuette’s decision Wednesday. “… After the Wayne County prosecutor absolutely failed.”