AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – New developments in a more-than-50-year-old case. The Department of Justice is now investigating the murder of Charles Oatman and the six men murdered during the Augusta Riot of 1970. The announcement comes just two days before the anniversary of the event.
Justice could be on the horizon for those six black men that were killed during the Augusta Riots back in 1970.
“And not only were they killed, but they were also shot in their backs, and not only were they shot in the back all of the white police officers that shot them in their backs were promoted,” said Dr. Mallory K. Millender.
Dr. Mallory Millender was a young faculty member at Paine College during the Augusta riots. He says that one of the officers was even named officer of the year.
He says “What happened to those black men and why it happened has essentially been sanitized. When you hear about the killing that happened during the riot they rarely tell you that they were all shot in the back.”
But now the department of justice is actively investigating the killings of those six black men. The Augusta riots were the result of the death of 16-year-old Charles Oatman. He died in a Richmond County Jail after he was arrested for shooting his 5-year-old niece.
“It was not yet consolidated and Carrie Mays who had his body said that the markings on his body, there were deep gashes on his body and cigarette burns and he said it was inconsistent with what the authorities were saying happened.”
Authorities reported that Oatman died after falling from his bunk, but an autopsy report showed he had fluid in his lungs. Carrie Mays was an undertaker she concluded that Oatman died from drowning.
“People were fed up,” said Millender.
And while Oatman’s death remains a mystery, Millender says the DOJ seeking answers now could still change the rhetoric of today.
“I think it will bring justice to those families of those victims who have been labeled as looters,” he said.
DOJ leaders are asking for witnesses from the Augusta Riots to come forward to help in their investigation. Joyce Law a local historian was 16 when those riots took place.
“I was working as a tutor at First Mount Moriah in Turpin Hill and instead of walking home, I had to call ride and we just did get home before everything was in chaos,” said Joyce Law.
She believes that more people should be willing to come forward and speak with investigators this time around.
She says “The social relations the political relations are not at all similar to what they were in the 1920 so hopefully we’ll have a lot more cooperation so that something like this will not happen again in Augusta.”
If you have any information about this case, call the Department of Justice: (202) 514-0716