A 35-year-old white North Carolina man was sentenced on Monday to federal prison for violating the Fair Housing Act when he terrorized a Black family in 2014.
Douglas Matthew Gurkins of Greenville will spend 28 months in federal prison for violating the FHA, which makes it illegal to threaten a person’s housing rights based on race, the Justice Department announced.
Gurkins, who was charged with one count of criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act in July, pleaded guilty on Aug. 6, 2020, to driving to a Black woman’s Greenville, North Carolina, home and yelling racial slurs at her and her four children. He also admitted that he told the family they didn’t belong in the home and brandished a metal rod and threatened to shoot them.
The family moved out of the neighborhood just days after the incident.
“Part of what makes the United States free is the guarantee that we can live anywhere in this country without regard to the color of our skin and without murderous threats directed at us and our children,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “This defendant terrorized an entire family by threatening to kill African American parents and their four children and others because of their race. This kind of cruel terror has no place in the United States of America, and the U.S. Department of Justice will remain vigilant in prosecuting anyone who interferes with any families’ housing rights.”
Over the previous four years, Gurkins reportedly had threatened other Black families in the same Greenville neighborhood.
“This is not who we are as Americans and prejudice of any kind is intolerable,” said U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr.
The Raleigh News & Observer also reported that Gurkins was charged with making threats on four separate occasions between 2014 and 2017, and for stalking and trespassing in 2017, although he never did prison time in any of those cases.
“There is no way to undo the damage Gurkins did to these families with his hateful, repulsive, and violent behavior,” said Robert R. Wells, special agent in charge of the Charlotte, North Carolina, field office. “The FBI hopes today’s prison sentence can provide them some sense of comfort. No one should ever be targeted or threatened because of the color of their skin, especially in their own homes.”
Aftwer serving 28 months, Gurkins will be on supervised release for three additional years.