Black activists concerned about handling of McIver shooting

Ever since a spokesman for Claud “Tex” McIver said the Atlanta lawyer pulled out a handgun fearing he had come upon a Black Lives Matter rally, many African Americans have cast doubt on his story that he accidentally killed his wife.

Now, a month after the shooting, several black activists say they see the police investigation dragging on and suspect the prominent, politically-connected attorney and his team are working behind the scenes to make the case go away. They also suspect the police would be quicker to act if the shooter was black.

“I just think we’re seeing a double standard of justice,” said Joe Beasley, who has pressed for civil rights for four decades in Atlanta. “I’m worried he is getting special treatment.”

Police officials, for their part, say McIver has received no special treatment, and his attorney said he hasn’t requested any.

On Sept. 25, Tex McIver shot his wife, Diane, as they rode in their SUV near Piedmont Park, said police, who have offered few other details. McIver maintains the shooting was an accident. Diane McIver died early the next morning after being taken to Emory University Hospital on Clifton Road.

The McIvers were a prominent and well-connected Atlanta couple who donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates. A top labor attorney, Tex McIver, 73, is the longtime vice chairman of the state’s Board of Elections. Diane McIver, 64, was president of Corey Airport Services.

The questions swirling around the shooting are hardly confined to the black community. How exactly did the gun go off? Why didn't the couple drive to the nearest hospital? Why didn't they call 911?

But many blacks see the case through the prism of race, activists say. They were insulted when a family spokesman used Black Lives Matter as a reason to pull a gun, seeing it as a typical “blame a black man” defense. They worry that the police have taken too long and said so little about the case. More than anything, the activists say the shooting would be handled differently if it centered on a black couple.

“If I as a black man had given an explanation like that, I would be arrested and there would be calls for a murder indictment by the DA,” said former Atlanta City Council member Derrick Boazman, who has mentioned the case on his radio talk show.

Atlanta Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy, responding to media inquiries, forthrightly denied that the department was treating this case differently.

“That is simply not true,” Espy wrote in a statement. “Our investigators are handling this the same as any other homicide case.”

Tex McIver’s attorney, Stephen Maples, had quickly retracted the comment by a family spokesman regarding Black Lives Matter, saying it was in error and that there was no racial motivation in his pulling out a gun.

Maples has said the couple were being driven home to Buckhead from their other home in Putnam County on Sept. 25 when they pulled off I-85 onto Edgewood Avenue due to traffic. Tex McIver was sitting in the rear seat and his wife in the front passenger seat when they spotted some people milling about and pulled a gun from the center console of the SUV. Maples said homeless people have been known to hang out under the overpass there.

Soon after, Tex McIver fell back to sleep while a family friend continued driving, Maples said. McIver told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he had the handgun wrapped in a plastic bag in his lap when he said he suddenly awoke near Piedmont Park and the gun went off.

Maples said his client has told the truth regarding the shooting of his wife, and he pointed to a polygraph test that McIver recently passed. The test was administered at McIver’s request by a private firm.

Beasley, whose civic involvement ranges from the saving of Grady Memorial Hospital to helping the homeless, said he has shared his concerns directly with Atlanta Police Chief George Turner and DA Paul Howard.

Turner, he said, indicated that the police investigation was completed and that he had recommended to the DA charges of either murder or manslaughter.

Police spokeswoman Espy acknowledged that the two men had spoken but insisted that is not what Turner conveyed to Beasley. She would not elaborate. Beasley, for his part, said fellow activist Marcus Coleman was also on that call, and Coleman later confirmed Beasley’s account to the AJC.

Beasley said that Howard indicated that the police had yet to complete their work. Howard’s office declined to comment.

Beasley said the upset in the black community has increased since an account emerged of an earlier shooting involving McIver, in which he shot at a car containing three teens in 1990. No one was injured and the case was eventually dropped after the parties agreed to settle it privately.

J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb County DA, said he’s not surprised the investigation has lasted this long. In such cases, investigators often have to examine the parties’ finances, wills and any other agreements. “That does take a while,” he said.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, says he at least wants to see McIver removed from his post on the state Board of Elections. He said the Black Lives Matter comment calls into question McIver’s attitude toward blacks and that the elections board often handles matters that have a racial component.

“I believe Mr. McIver’s actions since the tragic death of his wife have called into question his views on the African-American community, and undermine the presumption of fairness he must have to serve as a member of the board,” Fort wrote in a letter today to Senate leaders.