A Michigan man faces 40 years in prison for the alleged rants he posted on Facebook encouraging friends to “kill all white cops,” apparently becoming frustrated after watching several police videos spread across social and news media showing white cops disproportionately killing unarmed black men.
“It was a tirade of hate and violence specifically directed toward police, encouraging people to kill police,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said during a press conference.
“The message is clear. You threaten to kill a police officer, there will be a certain response,” added Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who stood beside him on Wednesday.
However, the charges come two months after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to file charges against the man, stating that not only were the threats vague, but that the man was in Puerto Rico when he allegedly posted them.
Investigators say Nehru Gowan Littleton posted the following on his Facebook page between July 8 and July 9:
“If these racist ass white cops want to PURGE on Black Lives!!! Then let’s PURGE on these racist ass white cops!!! I’m sick of this shit!!! If you don’t like what I said, UNFRIEND ME!!!! #rugonberue.”
It’s not clear if anyone unfriended Nehru Littleton.
But his rant was reported to the Dearborn Police Department.
Investigators say Littleton used his computer to commit a crime and make terroristic threats, stacking him with two felonies. Each punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Michigan.
After posts of his rants were reported by an “unnamed Dearborn resident,” police dispatched a message throughout the department and substations, saying that Littleton’s posts amounted to a “significant threat” to lives of its cops.
Littleton was one of four men whom police wanted charged for making online rants against cops, but Worthy determined the Detroit cops failed to bring sufficient evidence in three of those cases – including Littleton’s – and asked for more details in the fourth.
“DPD has many fine investigators,” she said at the time. “But the work in the four Facebook cases was substandard.”
Worthy admitted she found Littleton’s posts disturbing, but cautioned, “We cannot fly by the seat of our pants in charging cases.”
“[He] 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 explained. “Further, [Littleton’s] written rant did not indicate when all white officers should be killed or which white officers should be killed.”
She also said state law would not allow her to charge him because he was in Puerto Rico, not Wayne County, when he allegedly made the posts.
However, Michigan’s top cop,Attorney General Bill Schuette, said there is a law that allows him to be charged as he did his best to alarm the audience at the press conference, warning those watching, “women and men in law enforcement are under siege.
“At times ridiculed or . . . worst yet, targeted for violence or death. And that’s wrong.”
Here are some more of Littleton’s Facebook posts.
“To those sniper’s in Texas, I commend your bravery and actions!!! #blacklivesmatter.”
“All lives can’t matter until Black Lives matter!!!! Kill all white cops!!!”
“Kill all white cops!!!”
“Kill all white cops!!!”
“Fuck that!!! Nobody called for prayer after Alton Sterling got shot to death!!! Fuck them police!!!!”
“Yes!!! #blacklivesmatter #purgeoncops.”
“Why isn’t that white man shot dead!!! #wakeupblackpeople # itsnotagame”
Dan Krobokin legal director for the ACLU and former editor at USA Today asked, “would they be doing this if the Facebook posts were about anyone other than police?”
“If not, then we have a problem.”
“If somebody says all cops must die. There’s no individual who would rationally believe that threat was directed to them specifically,” he said.
“It’s going to create generalized anxiety in the department, but it wouldn’t meet the test of a true threat.”
Korobkin explained the First Amendment protects free speech that “can encourage illegal conduct and speech that may be disturbing to others. ”
“If somebody says all cops must die, there’s no individual who would rationally believe that threat was directed at them specifically,” he said.
“Now . . . it’s going to create generalized anxiety in the department, but it wouldn’t meet the test of a ‘true threat.'”
“But under clearly established first amendment rules, unless what someone says is a true threat, a mere generalized statement, particularly in a political context – which this was – is protected under the first amendment,” he explained.
Chief James Craig explained that by flexing his authority on Littleton and others like him, he was showing his support for thin blue line members across the country.
“My critics said, ‘Why are we worried about threats?'” asked the chief.
“We take threats serious. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing today. We have to support our men and women, not just locally but across this state who run to danger.
Guns rights and other civil rights activists have criticized Chief Craig for not protecting urban black communities after he advocated for Detroit citizens to defend themselves with guns in order to build trust between the community and police.
Critics allege that while Chief Craig helped build trust with parts of the community and reduced crime, his subordinates deprived the rights of blacks by targeting them with arrests for exercising their right to open carry.
Now critics accuse the chief of targeting those exercising constitutionally protected free speech with arrest.
“They arrest first, and ask questions later,” said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Rights Center.
“And that’s where constitutional questions arise. Free speech gives you the right to say sometimes outrageous things and not be punished unless you are genuinely threatening an individual.”
Littleton never followed through with his rant and now white cops were reportedly attacked because of his posts.