By Nick Diamantides
Signal Hill police detectives are investigating an email that seems to suggest that Signal Hill Mayor Ed Wilson should be lynched. Wilson received the email on June 5 and showed it to the police shortly thereafter. He also discussed it at the July 6 meeting of the Signal Hill City Council.
“A lot of people think the days of racial prejudice and bigotry are over,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is not the case.”
The email claims to be from a homeowner in Signal Hill who is angry at Wilson for supporting Laura Richardson in her bid to be reelected as the US Congresswoman for California’s 37th Congressional District, which includes Signal Hill. At the time the email was sent, Richardson was under investigation for corruption, but has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Assuming that Richardson was guilty of all allegations, the sender of the email told Wilson, “I can only assume that you are just as corrupt, although it could be attributed to being ignorant. The saying goes, where there is smoke there is fire. As far as I am concerned, it’s time for a good old fashioned lynching/tar and feather.”
Further down, the writer asked, “Why is it you darkies cover up for each other?”
Signal Hill Police Lieutenant Mike Reid said detectives are currently investigating the matter to determine if the writer of the email can be charged with a crime. He explained that a certain legal threshold must be crossed before the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office will prosecute an action as a crime. “This is an ongoing investigation, and there is not much I can tell you other than that the department takes this very seriously,” he said. “Of course we are going to do everything we can to protect possible victims, which include the mayor and city council.”
Reid said police detectives will soon be presenting their findings to the District Attorney’s Office. If prosecutors determine that there is enough evidence to prosecute a crime, the email writer will be arrested.
“I don’t consider this to be just hate mail,” Wilson said. “I consider this to be a threat. When someone talks about lynching, it goes beyond just hate mail.”
Wilson said he does not know the identity of the email writer and he has not replied to the email. He explained, however, that neither he nor the police can ignore someone talking about lynching African-Americans. “Anyone who understands the history of America can understand that,” he said. “In fact, someone once showed me a picture of the Ku Klux Klan holding a rally on the top of Signal Hill.”
Wilson said he does not know how many people have the same mentality as the writer of the email, but it was important for the police and society at-large to make a strong statement that racial hatred and threats of violence will not be tolerated. Wilson also asserted that he is not frightened or intimidated by the email. “Many people of all races have told me that I have made a positive difference by being on the Signal Hill City Council,” he said. “I try to represent people of all ethnic backgrounds and try to always do what is best for the community, and for someone to suggest that I should not be in office just because I happen to be African-American is very wrong.”
He added that he had forwarded the email to Richardson and warned her that the email could also be construed as a threat against her life. “Some people might think that the email was just a joke, but there is nothing funny about it,” he said. “It was malicious, racist and threatening. That’s why I turned it over to the authorities.”