© 2024 KLCC

136 W 8th Ave
Eugene OR 97401

Contact Us

FCC Applications
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawsuit Involving SPD Officer And Noose Displayed Near Black Woman's Home Filed

Brian Bull/Legal complaint from Brian Michaels

A lawsuit filed against a Springfield Policeman stems from an incident involving two Black women, one of whom's neighbor displayed a skeleton hanging by a noose.  

In July last year, Springfield resident Ashley Carr and a friend were sitting in a vehicle looking at the skeleton displayed at Carr's neighbor’s house, when SPD officer Joseph Burke confronted them.  

The suit alleges that Burke - who is white - questioned the women’s presence in the neighborhood, and asked if they were part of “the mob”, implying Black Lives Matter and Black Unity.  Burke also openly talked on the phone with the neighbor (also white)  in front of Carr and her friend, saying they were out to “cancel” him over his decorations.

“You read that transcript, he bonds with the noose, he bonds with the noose hanger," said Carr's attorney, Brian Michaels, at a news conference today at the historic Mims House in Eugene.  "And he dismisses my client and her friend as ‘thugs’ belonging to a mob. And disbelieves them when they tell him, that’s where Ms. Carr lives. ‘Black people don’t live in this neighborhood.’” 

Nooses are associated with the lynchings of African Americans, and considered symbols of violence. 

The neighbor in question has kept up Halloween decorations around his house year-long, but Michaels says witnesses say the noose was a new addition following recent get-togethers at Carr's home that summer. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Eugene City Councilor Greg Evans at today's press event hosted at the Mims House.

The complaint goes on to say that Carr was distressed by her July 28th, 2020 encounter with Burke, and constantly feared for her safety and that of her children. Two days after the confronation, Carr left her Springfield residence and has never returned. 

At the press conference, Eugene City Councilor Greg Evans spoke of how nooses have been used to threaten Black Americans for generations.

"We have had situations where people have thought this is a funny thing to do, that it’s a prank, that it’s a joke, but it’s not," said Evans. 

"It’s more devious and more sinister than some of the things you may hear about on college campuses like people dressing up in blackface and that kind of thing.”

The noose's symbolism hits deeply for Evans.  His great uncle was lynched in South Carolina in 1915 after saying something that offended a local white man.  

WEB EXTRA: Councilor Evans recalls 1915 lynching of his great uncle (Content may upset some viewers):

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill this year that criminalizes any intimidating displays of nooses.  Michaels told reporters he's not ruled out the possibility of taking legal action against Carr's neighbor. 

The City of Springfield declined comment on the suit.   

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
Related Content