Facebook video forwarded to GBI for potential investigation of perceived threat

Ray Harps Muhammad

Photo of Ray Harps Muhammad captured from Facebook live video

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

A Facebook live video recorded by Griffin resident Ray Harps Muhammad has been forwarded to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and potentially to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix and Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates both say they perceived a statement Muhammad made as a threat against them.

“I heard what he said. He said, ‘If y’all move on me, Sheriff Dix and Chief Yates, I’ll kill you. Move on me – whatever that means,” Yates said. “We are aware of his comments. We have made note of them and we will handle them appropriately.”

Yates said he believes that statement “would meet the context of a terroristic threat and act.”

Dix concurred with Yates’ assessment of Muhammad’s statement.

“Yes, I did. After viewing other videos that he’s posted and the comments that he has made, yes, I take it very seriously. I watched the video and I perceived his comment as being a threat to me, and as soon as I was made aware of it, I contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), as far as I know, has been contacted, as well,” Dix said. “Since I’m an elected official, I felt that it would be better if an outside agency looked at this so there will be no claims of misconduct, prejudice or abuse of authority.”

Dix said he is uncertain if a formal investigation is being conducted by either the GBI or FBI.

When asked if he believes statements such as that made by Muhammad may incite others, Yates said it could have the potential to encourage violence.

“It’s always possible that his rhetoric could adversely affect someone and contribute to them doing something foolish,” he said.
In response to the same question, Dix stated, “Yes, I do. I actually do because there are people across this country openly calling for LEOs to be killed, and yes, I take it very seriously in light of current events.”

Dix explained there is a fine line between expressions protected by the First Amendment and threats. As a law enforcement officer and elected official, he is accustomed to harsh criticism, but said threats will not be ignored.

“You can dislike me. You can hate me, and you can talk ugly about me. That comes with the job. That’s part of it and that doesn’t bother me at all, but when it gets to the point that you are threatening me, that is a totally different ballgame. Lots of times, people walk a very thin line between the two,” he said.

Asked if he believes Muhammad’s statement crossed that line, Dix said, “To me personally, I believe it crossed the line. Whether the courts view it that way or the people investigating it view it that way is a totally different thing.”

Dix later added, “A lot of what he said and the way he said it, it’s going to be open to interpretation of the law and how it applies to what he said as to whether it was a criminally chargeable terroristic threat or somebody just reacting to what’s going on in the country right now.”

Muhammad staunchly denies having threatened any act of violence against anyone, particularly Dix and Yates. He says to assume he did so would require his statement to be taken out of context.

In the Facebook live video posted Friday, June 19, a few hours prior to a protest in downtown Griffin organized by Muhammad, the activist first spoke extensively to community members, particularly Black residents.

Leading up to his statement regarding Dix and Yates, Muhammad, addressing Black men and women, said, “Leave me alone. Let me be about the business of my Father’s work or I’ll come and see your ass on another level. Leave me the hell alone. And I hope I’m perfectly clear to all of you negroes down here. I don’t care what religion you’re in. I don’t care what your ethnicity is. I don’t care what your gender is. I’m about the business of trying to save the lives of Black people and when you anger a peaceful man – I am a very peaceful brother. I really am. I ain’t started nothing down here. I try not to violate their law. I may speed from time to time and you give me a ticket when I speed, but if you make any moves on me, g**damnit. You make some moves this way, we’ll kill everything. Don’t make a move on me, bruh. I’m not that type of brother, but if you have that sick mind and that sick mentality, we will send you back to your maker. You’d best leave me alone and let me be about the business of trying to help our people because if you make a move on me, g**damnit, we’ll tear this g**damn town up. And I want to be perfectly clear with that. I’ve got men in the field. You don’t even know who backs me up. You don’t even know who loves me down here that I have to hold them back when they think you’re bothering me. These young brothers love me down here because they see me as the voice that they’ve been waiting to hear. And some of you scared to death preachers, chicken eating and biscuit eating ni**ers. Leave me alone, brothers. Leave me alone. Let me be about the business of trying to help our people, because if you, I’m telling you.”

Muhammad then specifically addressed Dix and Yates with the same admonition.

“And I know Sheriff Dix is listening to this. I know Chief Yates is listening to this, but I’m going to say it publicly. You make a move on me, and you come after me, we’re going to kill your ass. I promise you that. God as my witness on that one,” Muhammad said. “Don’t make a move on a peaceful man. Don’t make that move. I wouldn’t make that mistake if I was you. You’d better listen to what I’m telling you because I’ll give a war cry down here in a minute if you bother me, man. You make a move on me physically, we will destroy this g**damn town.”

In a subsequent interview with The GRIP, Muhammad repeated sentiments he had expressed Monday in a separate Facebook live video in which he denied having threatened direct harm to anyone.

“Here’s the thing. There’s been a lot of threats coming at me from white people. It seems like my page has become the Spalding County Discussion Page. It’s the things you would expect when you’re confronting a racist system of things that needs to be changed,” he said. “It was in that vein that we were having that discussion. I was telling them that if these people who have made these threats come at me. The bottom line was because of so many death threats coming at me, so many threats of bodily harm coming at me. It’s because we come at this systemic racism that people are angered and are threatening me.”

Muhammad remains unapologetic for his statements and is insistent he was merely responding to others’ threats including some referencing a tank being driven through his home and other that he said mentioned him hanging by a noose.

“You’re speaking about killing me, about bringing harm to me. If you come at me to bring harm to me, we will fight back. We will kill you,” he said. “If you attack, then we defend. It was never about we’re going to attack for no reason. As a Muslim, we have no right to fight unless in defense, so it was in that vein – having received so many threats from white folks.”

He insists he has no violent intentions and wants to bring about change peacefully.

“I don’t want harm to come to anyone. I don’t want this to be about Ray and violence. I want this to be about peace, but I believe them when they say they’re going to do something to me,” Muhammad said.

He said he has not been contacted by the GBI regarding any investigation of his recorded statements, but he did respond to learning it had been turned over to the state law enforcement agency.

“Well, here’s the thing as it relates to being investigated for speaking the truth. As you go through history, you can recall Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Angela Davis, Marcus Garvey, Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party, Kwame Ture, who was Stokely Carmichael during the 60s, and all the way back to Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. You can list all the Black people who have moved for progress and equality. They’ve all been investigated,” he said. “I’m just trying to do in my little short time on earth what all these ancestors did.”

Muhammad said he believes he is led by God to speak out and take action, just as the others he mentioned where “commissioned by God to do this job, too.”

“You’re putting it all on the line when you’re fighting for justice and equality for black people who have been oppressed since our sojourn here,” he said. “It seems to me the system is feeling threatened based on truth. It isn’t based on anyone going out and killing someone. In fact, all the names I just listed don’t have any history of going out and killing anyone, but there is a history of the system going out and killing these people who have spoken out against injustice. I see it as the price that one must pay for speaking the truth.”

Muhammad expressed that the reactions of some white Griffin residents, along with the views expressed by Dix and Yates, were unsurprising to him.

“So, when you go after a system that’s been out there for over 400 years, it’s going to produce a lot of powerful enemies. It’s going to produce anger in those individuals who would love for the system to remain the same. It’s going to produce death threats and propaganda,” he said. “It appears that J. Edgar Hoover is still alive because the tactics he used in the 50s and 60s are alive and well today. When someone begins to disturb the status quo, the propagandists begin doing what they do.”

Dix said he has been taken aback by statements made by Muhammad, who he once met with at the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office.

“The meeting I had with him in I believe 2017 was very productive and we covered a lot of ground. We had quite a lengthy conversation and I thought it went well. That’s what makes what’s going on now so difficult to understand. I know he puts out a lot of hate about me, but he hasn’t spoken to me again since our original meeting in 2017,” Dix said.

Like Muhammad, Dix also expressed his desire for peace in the Griffin-Spalding County community and said he urges those upset by Muhammad’s comments to remain calm.

“I have been inundated with phone calls, text messages and social media messages about this threat and this video and I’m asking everybody to just stay calm about it and let things run their course, don’t overreact to it and everybody just stay calm about it. I have a duty as a constitutional officer to respect everyone’s First Amendment rights whether I agree with what’s being said or not. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it does not give you the right to go around threatening to kill people. You have freedom of speech, but there’s also responsibility involved in that,” Dix said. “My goal in this whole thing is for everything to be peaceful and for everything to be calm and for people to be able to sit down and have an honest dialogue about things. That is the only way we’re going to be able to hash out these problems we have, and that’s across the country. We have to be able to sit down and have honest dialogue and put aside all the rhetoric.”

While Dix and Yates say they do believe Muhammad’s statements constitute a credible terroristic threat, neither law enforcement executive has been deterred.

“I’m out and about in this community all the time and if anyone wants to find me, I’m not that hard to find,” Dix said.

“It’s not the first time that I’ve had threats like that made and you take them all with some seriousness, but you have to consider the source,” Yates said. “In the context of the rhetoric of what he usually spews, I don’t really take it differently than what he usually does but he usually isn’t so specific in it. From looking at his videos, he seems to be a little unhinged, so that adds some air of caution to it.”

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Comments

  1. Tara Thigpen says:

    Me as being a white person I take what he said that the gang he runs with is going to attact white people an kill them

  2. Sticks and stones can break my bones.But words can never hurt me. From article it says if they make a move on him. In other words if someone makes first move.didn’t say he was targeting them. So I personally don’t think its a I’m gonna kill you no matter what that’s a threat . This sounds more like a blowing off steam. Just a thought. Police need to be taught how to deescalate things instead of trying to intimidate. They need to learn to listen and use there problem solving skills like most of the civilized world.Just a idea. Peace and love like Jesus told us to do.

  3. Martin L. Sullivan says:

    Deal with him!

  4. ROY BATTY says:

    So if it’s a terroristic threat, where are the arrests? People in Griffin get arrested for next to nothing, but this is allowed to stand? I suppose the cops are afraid now that there will be actual resistance. If there is no law & order, there is no government. Just disband the whole thing if you’re not going to do your jobs.

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