Alex Constantine - July 23, 2014
Latino Post, July 21, 2014
Neighbors in Fruitland, a small Florida town, were caught off guard by the news that the KKK had ties to two of their police officers. Signs of Ku Klux Klan activity had reportedly not been seen in the town for at least the past three decades.
Although Flordia has had its share of racist happenings, no one was prepared when an FBI report recently linked David Borst and George Hunnewell to a local chapter of the hate group.
"I'm shocked, very shocked," Chery Mion, told the Associated Press. "I didn't think that organization was still around. Yes, in the 1950s. But this 2014, and it's rather disconcerting to know."
Borst, a deputy police chief of the Fruitland Police Department resigned last week, and Cpl. George Hunnewell was fired after the police department's chief received a report that said the two were a part of the United Northern and Southern Knights Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Both men have denied being a part of the group, but an investigation is still pending.
Authorities detailed the account of Ann Hunnewell, the fired officer's wife 5-years ago, about the couple's initiation into the KKK. The couple knelt down in another cop's home and had pillowcases over their heads before completing an initiation ritual.
"Maybe I'm ignorant, but I didn't realize that they still met and organized and did that kind of thing," a local church volunteer, Michele Lange told the AP.
Many reports pointed to a previously discovered link to the KKK, when in 2009 James W. Elkins, a former police officer also with the department, was forced to leave the police force after it was discovered that the officer was a big-shot with that local Ku Klux Klan chapter.
Elkins, according to reports, said he was initially a member of the National Aryan Knights, and later became the leader of the KKK chapter and was promoted to Grand Dragon. Since he was helping with recruitment efforts, he opened up a P.O. Box, which was later discovered by authorities linking him to the group.
Elkins hasn't been able to continue his police work after losing his certification.
Fruitland Police Chief Terry Isaacs found out about the two officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as the FBI. He told the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog that Florida prosecutors are looking into the cases, and "if these cases don't stand on their own, my recommendation is that they drop them. An as-yet-unknown number of cases could be in jeopardy."
The two officers with the alleged KKK ties have not lost their ability to do police work, Hatewatch reported.
Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan is considered an extremist group that encourages racist, anti-Semitic thinking, and in the past used violence to achieve segregation and push for white supremacy. It's one of the largest right-wing hate groups in the United States.
Today, the Ku Klux Klan, which totals around 5,000 members, works against political topics such as gay marriage and immigration.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, "In the early 2000s, many communities in the United States began to experiences a significant influx of immigrants, especially Hispanics, for the first time in their histories. A single-issue movement opposing immigration has helped create fear and anxiety about immigration in the minds of many Americans. "
Donald Gilpin, a black volunteer firefighter who worked under Borst, who was also a firefighter, said his colleague didn't show him any signs he was racist.
"I can't believe it. I don't believe it," Gilpin told the Orlando Sentinel. "He's been nothing but nice to me. I call him 'Dad,' he calls me 'Son.' That's just the relationship we had."