Douglas Matthew Gurkins North Carolina man jailed 28 months threatening black family to move out of their home. History of racist abuse at black tenants.
A North Carolina man has been jailed for threatening to shoot a black family back in 2014, after driving to their rental home and yelling racist abuse at them and demanding that they move out cause ‘they didn’t belong there.’
Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34, was sentenced to 28 months in prison Monday, followed by 3 years supervised release, after he terrorized an African-American family six years ago, causing them to move out of their home just days later.
The man’s sentencing follows him pleaded guilty to one count of criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act. According to an August, Justice Department release, Gurkins admitted using the threats of force against the black family because of their race and because they were renting a home.
Court documents said Gurkins drove to the family’s home in December 2014, yelled racial slurs at them and told them they didn’t belong in their home.
He threatened to shoot the mother and her four children as well as any other black people who stepped foot on the property.
History of threats against other black tenant families
He then threatened the family with a metal rod, prosecutors said.
The family moved out a few days later.
But there’s more.
Gurkins also made similar threats toward two other black families living in the same neighborhood over the next four years, according to the Justice Department.
Gurkins pleaded guilty to one count of criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act in federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina back on August 6.
The charge relates to using force or a threat of force to interfere with a person’s rights to housing because of their race, color, religion, sex, handicap, family status or national origin.
While facing a maximum sentence of 10 years jail and fines of up to $250,000, Gurkins escaped with a much lighter sentence of just over two years during sentencing earlier this week.
‘DOJ will remain vigilant in prosecuting anyone who interferes with any families’ housing rights.’
Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, said in a statement that Gurkins had ‘terrorized’ the family because of their race and vowed that the DOJ will come down hard on people carrying out this ‘kind of cruel terror’.
‘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,’ he said.
‘This defendant terrorized an entire family by threatening to kill African American parents and their four children and others because of their race.
‘This kind of cruel terror has no place in the United States of America, and the US Department of Justice will remain vigilant in prosecuting anyone who interferes with any families’ housing rights.’
Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina, described Gurkins’ actions as ‘repulsive’ and said he hoped his sentence would bring some comfort to the family he racially abused.
‘There is no way to undo the damage Gurkins did to these families with his hateful, repulsive, and violent behavior,’ he said in a DOJ release.
‘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.’
US Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina added: ‘The defendant’s threats violate the laws designed to ensure fair and equal treatment for us all and I am pleased we could bring this matter to federal court to vindicate those rights and to stand with this mom and her children to see that justice is served.’
Gurkins is also facing a civil lawsuit over a separate alleged racist incident, according to federal court filings seen by The News & Observer.
The suit, filed last year in Eastern North Carolina by a retired black couple, claims Gurkins repeatedly leveled racial slurs at them and threatened and intimidated them.
The abuse allegedly began in 2017 when Gurkins moved into the other half of a duplex the couple were renting from his aunt.
Gurkins threatened the wife saying he would ‘beat her black ass’ and yelled abusive comments at the couple outside their home and through the walls, the suit states.
It also claims he was abusive toward other black tenants residing in properties under his aunt’s property management company Remco East Inc. in Greenville.
The couple filed a protective order against Gurkins, The News & Observer reported.
Gurkins’ aunt and Remco East Inc. are also named as defendants in the suit.