SILER CITY — An ongoing investigation into disturbing text messages sent to former political candidates in Chatham County has been handed off to the Siler City Police Department, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Patrick Gannon, the public information director for the State Board of Elections, told the News + Record that the SCPD is working to investigate further messages and images sent to Chatham County Commissioner candidate Rev. Dr. Albert Reddick and Siler City Mayoral candidate Nick Gallardo.
“The State Board of Elections is aware of the status of the investigation and will continue to monitor the situation and assist as necessary,” Gannon said. “Federal authorities, including the FBI, are also aware of these incidents.”
Reddick went to the SCPD, the state’s board of elections and the FBI to report a series of messages he received, which included a text with an image of what Reddick says is a gorilla in a noose. Gallardo said he received similar messages and said his family and friends had been the target of several abhorrent text messages and various types of harassment.
Siler City Police Chief Mike Wagner has told the News + Record there are no updates on the investigation. He
previously said the digital communication to and regarding Reddick contained “nothing criminal — no threats. Some troubling statements, yes, but nothing criminal.”
Wagner said he understood some information had been gained in tracking the source of the text messages, but declined to comment further.
And one of the photos in question he was shown — the one Reddick claims showing a noose — could be a mannequin.
“You don’t see a noose, you don’t see skin color,” he said. “You can’t see anything from the shoulders up. We have no idea where this picture is from. There’s nothing in the photo that would lead to a criminal case.”
Wagner said a second photo in question shows Reddick “sitting on a porch.”
Reddick contacted the state board of elections and the board reached out to the FBI, according to Wagner.
“We’ve had conversations with the agent who has responded,” Wagner said, declining to provide any additional information., and previously said there were no updates on the investigation in a text message to the News + Record last week.
Reddick said he was concerned with how the police department responded to his complaint, as well as how other organizations in the county have responded to the messages he received.
“We’re not satisfied with the Siler City Police Department investigation,” he said.
Reddick said he has a number of questions for the police department, as well as other organizations in the county which were made aware of the messages he received.
One question Reddick has arose from an incident at the apartment complex where he works as site manager. A tenant’s Life Alert went off and instead of giving law enforcement the address to the apartment unit, the device sent first responders to the renter’s office where Reddick works, and they decided to try to break into the office, according to Reddick.
“They were attempting to break into the entrance to the office that I was in as opposed to coming into the office and asking the site manager because the site manager has a master key,” he said. “That level of inadequacy gave me great concerns about the attention to this report.”
Reddick also wasn’t satisfied with the response he got from the East Chatham Branch of the NAACP about the text messages. He said he believes the NAACP didn’t take his complaint seriously enough, especially given the organization recently held a remembrance ceremony in partnership with the Community Remembrance Coalition-Chatham to honor the lynching victims in Chatham County.
“They just had a celebration, celebrating lynching of an African American in Chatham County, but here’s one being threatened [to be lynched] and running for office, and they never responded,” Reddick said. “So that’s troubling to me.”
Reddick also said he saw members of the NAACP in Chatham handing out information promoting local candidates, which he said was against the organization’s policy. He would not say which candidate the NAACP was promoting.
Chatham Community NAACP President Mary Nettles said some of the organization’s members may have been campaigning through other oganizations to which they belong.
Reddick said he was also worried when he was unable to reach Wagner, the police chief, between May 12 and May 17, and he also said “some members of the media” could not contact Wagner during the five day period. (The News + Record reached out to Wagner on May 14 by text message and received a phone call back on the same day. )
At the end of the day, Reddick said he wants the public to know what’s going on in the investigation and hopes he can get the answers he is looking for.
“It appears to me they said to put it (the investigation) off until after the election,” he said. “The public has a right to know.”
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.
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