A 1965 drive-by shooting that killed a black sheriff’s deputy is still unsolved.
A truck pulled up and they started shooting
In the early 1960s, the American South was at a crossroads. With segregation starting to crumble, blacks and whites faced off in tense, often violent confrontations. In Washington Parish, Louisiana, the black community began to push for integration of the Sheriff’s department. In 1964, David Creed Rogers and O’Neal Moore became the first black law enforcement officers in Washington Parish. O’Neal Moore’s window, Maevella Sam, recalled the day:
“It was just a great day, knowing my husband was the first Negro deputy. He got in his car and he turned his radio on and reported in, and we were just tickled.”
Were the killers members of the KKK?
Doyle Holiday, a retired deputy from the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Department, said public sentiment was split:
“At that time, feelings were running very high, very high. And people, some people, not all people, were against the blacks taking a part in any part of law enforcement or anything.”
O’Neal Moore and Creed Rogers were working in a white world that barely tolerated their presence. It was a volatile situation, and it all caught up with them on June 2, 1965. After a year on duty, O’Neal and Creed were used to harassment, so they weren’t surprised when a pickup truck began to tailgate them. Creed Rogers recalled the incident:
“It appeared to be a dark truck, a black truck. I noticed it had a white grill and rebel plates on the front. So as we headed south, it continued to follow us.
O’Neal Moore did not survive the shooting
Creed says the truck pulled along side them and someone inside opened fire. Both men were hit:
“Well, the car hit the tree, and they passed, still shooting, and evidently the last shot got him, it knocked him over me.”
Hearing the shots, a neighbor ran to the accident scene. The neighbor stood guard until Deputy Doyle Holiday arrived a few minutes later:
“When I got up there I found Deputy O’Neal Moore dead and Deputy Creed Rogers all shot up. Creed described the truck right down to the last detail. And I immediately put out an APB on that truck. And in less than about thirty or forty-five minutes, they called me from my office and told me that they had apprehended the truck of that description in Tollertown, Mississippi. The truck fit the description to a “T” of what Creed had told me, with the exception of the side rails. There were no side rails on the truck at the time of apprehension.”
The truck was stopped just twenty miles from the scene of the shooting. The driver was arrested but was soon released on a $25,000 bond. The charges were later dismissed due to lack of evidence.
David “Creed” Rogers
Suspicion soon focused on the Ku Klux Klan, but the local chapter immediately denied any involvement. Racial tensions increased, but the sheriff refused to give in to the pressure. O’Neal was replaced by another black deputy. According to Maevella Sam, the attack accomplished nothing:
“When they tried to get rid of Creed and O’Neal, it didn’t frighten them, it just gave others more courage.”
Doyle Holiday continued his investigation. Then, two weeks after the shooting, he became a victim of violence:
“After I got through talking to the Sheriff, I went over and sat down on the couch. That’s when the shot rang out and I hollered, get down! And I grabbed my gun that was on the table and went out the door firing. And they immediately took off. I might have been stepping on somebody’s toes, I don’t know, but I don’t know why they picked me out, singled me out, because even had they shot me down, which they didn’t, they still had the FBI and the State Police to contend with.”
The Governor of Louisiana offered a $25,000 reward. Still, local residents refused to cooperate with the FBI or the Sheriff. The case was declared inactive in 1967. According to Doyle Holiday, fear of the Klan kept people quiet:
“Years ago, the Klan was so strong that the people would not open their mouths. They would not give you a lead on anything, for fear of their house being burnt, or some member of their family being hurt, or something to that effect. Back then, they didn’t want anything to do with the FBI, the state police, or the local police.”
Then, in 1987, three informants contacted the FBI field office in New Orleans: two by letter, one by phone. Each claimed to know the people responsible for O’Neal Moore’s murder. As a result, the case was reopened. Special Agent Michael Heimbach with the New Orleans FBI said that the agency investigated the names:
“One of the two letters is very specific on identifying individuals that were within the pickup truck and the getaway route of the pickup truck involved. We have looked at the three individuals specifically mentioned in this anonymous letter and have interviewed their families or anyone that may be associated with these three individuals.”
Even after all this time, the FBI still does not have enough information to make an arrest. However, Agent Heimbach believes that the killers were members of the Klan:
“We feel that it was members of the Ku Klux Klan that took part in this shooting, but they did it on their own. They didn’t allow other individuals to have knowledge of what they were going to do.”
Since Moore and Creed Rogers took their last ride together, the South has changed. Rogers refused to be frightened away from his police career, and in 1988, he retired as a full captain from the Sheriff’s Department:
“I still wonder who could have done it. And that’ll be with me forever, who could have done that, you know, when people try to kill you and you haven’t done anything to them, why? That never leaves your mind. Sometimes you wonder if they’re still out there, still wanting to try it. It’s a bad feeling.”
Doyle Holiday thinks it’s only a matter of time before there’s a break in the case:
“I think that a lot of people that was involved back then are getting on up in years, like myself, and they don’t want to go face the Almighty with that on their conscience. And I think before the final day, somebody’s gonna get it off of their chest.”
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of O’Neal Moore’s killers.
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.
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