WTOC Investigates: Cursing the cause?

Published: Aug. 29, 2017 at 9:02 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2017 at 9:16 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Imagine the shock that went through the Chatham County Detention Center when the staff saw that Sheriff John Wilcher was being called out for writing a book on how to kill black people in the jail.

Truth is, such a book has never been written, but it became clear that a post created by Black Lives Matter Savannah was hoping to convince people otherwise. That post was in poor taste for sure, but worse than that, it may have been a post that did little more than set the goals of that organization back years.

Just before it was abruptly deleted, the group, "Black Lives Matter Savannah", created a post on its Facebook page that showed questionable taste, to say the least. At worst, may qualify as libel.

The post shows a collage of pictures including Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher, a KKK member, a homemade noose inside a jail and Mathew Ajibade, an inmate who died at the hands of nurses and deputies inside the detention center in 2015.

Below it, the title to what the post calls Sheriff Wilcher's new book out next week on Amazon, "101 ways to kill blacks in the Chatham County Jail".

The post goes on to say the 143-page book even includes the sheriff's "top 10 methods that are time-tested for getting the job done."

Tuesday afternoon, I spoke on the phone to Jomo Johnson who identified himself as Black Lives Matter's administrator.

He told me quote, "Obviously, it's a parody. We want people to understand, we want to bring awareness to the issue."

Question is, what issue? Inmates - black and white - have committed suicide inside the detention center? Perhaps it's attention to the groups planned six weeks of protests coming soon to Savannah?

When someone expressed disbelief to the post, Black Lives Matter responded with this: 'Why do you doubt? Do you know how many black men have died in that jail?'

This past weekend, Black Lives Matter advisor, Justin Toney, reiterated Ajibade was one of perhaps many black men murdered by the sheriff and his staff inside the jail.

"We're gonna focus on the unjust incarceration of people of color and the murder of people of color like Matthew Ajibade," Toney said.

As for the sheriff, this whole thing has him a bit confused as well.

"Totally ludicrous. The people who posted that, whether it was Black Lives Matter or whoever posted this, it's totally ludicrous. The pictures on there are pictures of Ajibede and I was not here. I wasn't the sheriff. I was retired. And I have no knowledge about it or anything else. You know, it just hurts my feelings for somebody to do that," Sheriff Wilcher said.

Responses to doubters on the Black Lives Matter Facebook page continued to defend the post.

'Sheriff Wilcher has killed more black men than syphilis,' one response said.

Those responses don't point to specific cases, probably because there hasn't been a misconduct charge involving the death of an inmate since Wilcher took office. Black Lives Matter Savannah is in the beginning stages of organizing what it calls 'six weeks of protests' - peaceful demonstrations to draw attention to their cause. But do inflammatory Facebook creations like this really help the cause?

"That doesn't help a bit in the world, and the only thing I can say to the people who did that is my prayers are with you. I hope that you can live with yourself after writing something like that about somebody," Sheriff Wilcher said.

WTOC: "Sheriff, tell me about this great new book that's coming out next week."

Sheriff Wilcher: "Well, I found out about it Friday. Somebody had called me and asked me about the new book I was writing and that it was going to be out on Amazon. I'd just like to have part of the money that I'm doing it for because I haven't written a book about anything."

Once again, the post went up on Aug. 27 and was quickly removed Tuesday morning.

When I asked Johnson why it was removed, he told the group would post a statement related to the post on its website on Friday.

Another post warned Black Lives Matter that the post could result in legal action by the sheriff for defamation. Sheriff Wilcher tells me his lawyers believe he has a libel case. He also says while this kind of attack hurts, he's not about to waste his time or taxpayer dollars on something so ludicrous.

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