Local News

Former Paratrooper Testifies He Helped Make...

Posted February 12, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— About a month before two black people were gunned down in a city street, a paratrooper charged with the killings made a bomb to prepare for ``a racial holy war,'' a former friend testified Thursday.

The bomb was used by defendant James N. Burmeister and others to blow up a 30-pound stump as a test of its power, said Randy Meadows, a former Fort Bragg soldier and defendant in the murder case.

``There was nothing left of the stump,'' Meadows said. ``It was great.''

By the lunch break, Meadows had not testified about driving Burmeister to the dirt street where the killings occurred.

Meadows told District Attorney Ed Grannis that Burmeister wanted to build and test the bomb ``so he could have the knowledge for later in the Rahowa, the racial holy war.''

The defendant talked about blowing up a Jewish synagogue, Meadows said, and even looked in a telephone book for an address. The conversation took place in Meadows' and Burmeister's barracks in the 82nd Airborne Division area of Fort Bragg.

Meadows also said in the month before the killings, he drove Burmeister from a room he rented off base to a barracks room where skinheads were creating a formal structure. Meadows didn't attend the meeting because he wasn't a skinhead, he said.

Burmeister later told Meadows he had been assigned a low rank in the organization. Prosecutors contend the killings were carried out as part of an initiation.

Burmeister, 21, of Thompson, Pa., is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of shooting to death Jackie Burden, 22, and Michael James, 36, shortly after midnight on Dec. 7, 1995.

Meadows, 22, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for driving the car. He accepted a plea agreement to a lesser charge and agreed to testify against Burmeister and Malcolm Wright, 22, another extremist who was in the elite airborne division. Wright is charged with murder and is scheduled to be tried in March.

Both Burmeister and Wright face a death sentence if convicted.

Before the testimony started, defense lawyers objected to evidence about racial attitudes and hate symbols. After nearly two hours of argument outside the jury's presence, Superior Court Judge Coy Brewer Jr. allowed prosecutors to continue with their evidence.

On Wednesday, hate lyrics filled a courtroom Wednesday as prosecutors continued to lay groundwork to show a former soldier killed two black people because of his extremist beliefs.

Relatives of the victims bowed their heads as the strains of one song about shooting black people echoed in the small courtroom. Another song, titled ``Doc Marten Dental Plan,'' was about using skinhead boots to kick in people's teeth.

``Point it at their heads and let's have some fun. ... It's so much fun to mow them down,'' said one line of a song. The song also had lyrics about shooting people in the back.

When District Attorney Ed Grannis argued with defense lawyers over the relevance of the songs, he described it as ``a premonition of what happened to my two victims,''

Meadows testified that he wasn't a racist, but that Burmeister frequently said black people should be sent back to Africa or ``rounded up and shot.''

``Who was going to do that shooting, did he say?'' Grannis asked.

``No, sir,'' said Meadows, who was arrested at the scene of the shooting.

Meadows also testified that Burmeister jumped into a bar fight to kick a drunken solder in the teeth with his Doc Marten work boots, favored by skinheads, and then bragged about it.

The testimony showed the social life of some Fort Bragg soldiers who favored the extremist, skinhead lifestyle while off duty. Once at a bar, Wright spit beer in a gay black man's face and later picked a fight, Meadows said.

Burmeister and Meadows met in the paratrooper barracks at Fort Bragg and became drinking buddies. Meadows said the pair would each drink a case or more of beer a night on weekends and drank regularly during the week after work, usually in Burmeister's room, which was festooned with German flags and white supremacist symbols.

Burmeister had a religious belief that white people created things such a government and businesses and Orientals sustained them, Meadows said.

``The destroyers were blacks,'' he said. ``The Nazi flag represented a country he was very proud of because they believed in purifying the race to make it stronger.''

One night, Burmeister and others went into Fayetteville to beat up black drug dealers, Meadows said.

A black female got into their car to go to a house to buy drugs and when the soldiers and the woman got out of the car ``one of the three maced her and then beat her down to the ground,'' Meadows said.

Another time, Meadows, Burmeister, Wright and another soldier went to beat up black prostitutes. They followed one to her house and sprayed her with Mace and knocked her down in her doorway, Meadows testified.

``It was Burmeister's idea of having fun, wasn't it?'' Grannis said.

``Yes sir,'' Meadows answered.

From staff and wire reports Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.