With racial tensions in the US reaching new highs in 2020, a North Carolina Man has landed himself behind bars for threatening to kill an African-American family. Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34, received a sentence of 28 months in prison, along with three years of supervised release, for issuing threats of force to an African American family due to their race and the renting of a dwelling.
"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 Eric Dreiband. "This defendant terrorized an entire family by threatening to kill African American parents and their four children and others because of their race."
Issuing Death Threats
During his plea hearing, Gurkins confessed that in December 2014, he had driven to the residence of an African American family and hurled slurs directed at the family's race. He declared to the family that they "did not belong" in their home. Gurkins went on to threaten the family, which included four minor children, that he would shoot them.
"This defendant threatened citizens of this District - a mom and her four children - because of their race. This is not who we are as Americans and prejudice of any kind is intolerable," stated US Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr., Eastern District of North Carolina.
Terrorizing Other Families
Gurkins' threats did not end there. He told the family that any other African American who entered the property would be met with the same end as the familyâshot by him. After issuing the threats, the 34-year-old wielded a metal rod in a menacing fashion. Following the incident, the family left the neighborhood shortly after. However, the mentioned family was not the last to be terrorized by him.
Over the next four years, he is said to have threatened two other African American families residing in the same neighborhood. Gurkins pleaded guilty to one count of criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act on 6 August 2020.
"There is no way to undo the damage Gurkins did to these families with his hateful, repulsive, and violent behavior. 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," expressed Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, North Carolina.