MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Days after news broke that a Muskegon police officer had Ku Klux Klan memorabilia in his home, concerned citizens addressed the matter at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“If he has these ideas or if he has these philosophies, does he possibly inflict them on other people of color?” wondered Lowell Kirksey, one of the Muskegon citizens who addressed the city council.
The city garnered national press attention after a man looking to buy a new house toured Officer Charles Anderson’s home, which was listed for sale. In the home he noticed Confederate flags on display and an application for KKK membership in a frame hanging in a bedroom. The man took photos of what he saw, shared them on social media and the story spread quickly.
Intensifying the storyline was the fact that Anderson shot and killed a black man 10 years ago in Muskegon. The shooting was ruled justified by then-Muskegon County Prosecutor Tony Tague.
“Him being on the force, as minorities in Muskegon, we can’t leave our houses and feel safe,” said Ebony Davis, who organized a group to come to the city commission meeting.
“We want to support our officers. But if you’ve got a racist intent, we can’t have you around,” Kirksey said.
Reyna Mathis toured the home with her husband Rob and their children. It was her husband who posted the story on his Facebook page. Mathis addressed the commission with questions.
“I was obviously the one that toured officer Anderson’s home,” she said as she wiped away tears. “Nobody has contacted my family or myself. … I just wanted to know why?”
Muskegon Police Chief Jeffrey Lewis quickly approached Reyna Mathis after the meeting and spoke with her.
Lewis declined to talk specifics about the case, citing the ongoing internal investigation, but he promised to share results of the department’s review of the situation with the public. While the review continues, Anderson is on paid administrative leave.
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Lewis said the situation is “absolutely not” reflective of the Muskegon Police Department.
“This was not an on duty event. We were taken by surprise when this occurred and we’re taking action now,” he told News 8.
When asked to describe Anderson outside of the recent developments, the chief declined.
“I can’t talk about Charles Anderson. We’re doing an inquiry,” Lewis said. “We’re going to come to some kind of a conclusion or resolution very soon.”
Muskegon Mayor Stephen Gawron said the story and the pain it has caused bothers him.
“Hurt,” Gawron said when describing his initial reaction to News 8.”Just breaks your heart doesn’t it? And its aggravating and frustrating because you really don’t know whats going on.”
Commissioner Willie German Jr. echoed similar sentiments. He suggested that ultimately, it will likely be best for the officer to leave the department. He stopped shy of publicly calling for his termination.
“I’m not publicly saying that because I don’t know all the details but that image does not look good for the city of Muskegon,” German said.
City leaders assured the public that a review of the matter was underway and being treated seriously.