13 INVESTIGATES: Breaking the silence - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Breaking the silence

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BIRMINGHAM, AL -

While Johnnie Robinson's remains rest in peace at the Grace Hill Cemetery, the details of his death are still coming to light.

Fifty years ago last month, the 16 year old Robinson and four friends were standing in front of a gas station at the corner of 8th Avenue North and 26th Street in Birmingham.

They were exchanging words with cars full of white teenagers.

Doug McCall is the only one of those friends still alive today.

"All of a sudden something broke out, you know what I'm saying, when we were walking.  I guess we said something too, you know.  Cussing back at them and all that, but we had no idea, you know, that there's going to be no shooting," McCall recalled.

We found McCall's name by combing through a 1963 FBI report in the Birmingham Library Archives.

McCall told the FBI he was with Robinson moments before he died.

That was fifty years ago.

McCall has not spoken publicly about Robinson's death, until now.

"Nobody approached me and I just left it alone," McCall stated.

Multiple witnesses said they saw someone in Robinson's group throw a rock at some cars, prompting a police car to target the five teens.

McCall remembers a police car following him, his brother Lorenza and Johnnie Robinson to an alley off 26th Street.

McCall broke off from the other two and ducked into a two story building before hearing multiple shotgun blasts.

"I didn't know who had been shot, him or my brother.  I did not know at the time right then.  And when I run in the motel, you know there was a motel there near the service station there.  So I run in there and told this lady and her husband, I guess that was her husband, could I hide in there because they were trying to kill us.  So they let me hid in there," McCall remembered.

This autopsy chart shows Johnnie Robinson suffered multiple shotgun buckshot wounds to his back.

He died at the scene.

Records state that Birmingham Police veteran Jack Parker pulled the trigger.

To find out more about Officer Jack Parker and the other three officers in the car with him, we contacted the Birmingham Police Department.

We requested any records they had about the internal investigation conducted into Johnnie Robinson's death.

A spokesman told us it is their policy not to release information about internal investigations.

So we kept digging and found the information from a different source.    

Back in 2007, Johnnie Robinson's brother Leon and sister Diane Robinson Samuels were seeking answers of their own.

So they filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Department of Justice.

After two years of back and forth with the DOJ, they received the FBI's complete file on Johnnie Robinson's death.

When asked why they did not give up, Leon Robinson responded, "Because we wanted to know the truth.  We wanted to know what actually happened to our brother."

The file included statements made to Birmingham Police Internal Affairs by the three officers in the car with Jack Parker.

The driver, an Officer P.C. Cheek, stated, "I heard his shotgun and saw this Negro staggering across.  He looked as if he tripped just as Officer Parker shot and started falling at that time."

When asked how many shots officer parker fired, Cheek replied, "If I remember correctly only two shots were fired."

Officer J.E. Chadwick, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, told investigators, "Just as we got to the alley - the sidewalk was very rough- we hit a bump and the gun went off.  I did not actually see who shot."

Finally, Officer W.D. Haynie, who was sitting in the back seat with Officer Jack Parker, remembered, "Mr. Parker had the gun out of the window.  Just as he fired, I saw the Negro stumble."

Even though the file did not include a quote from Officer Jack Parker himself, the FBI summarized Parker's statement in its letter to the Robinson family.

"Officer Parker stated that he fired his shotgun towards the ground, but some of the shots struck Mr. Robinson in the back as he was running away."

There were other witness accounts in the FBI file, but many did not want to sign a statement or testify.

"Six witnesses did not want to have anything to do with it because, in my opinion, they might be revisited later on," Leon Robinson claimed.

Doug McCall was one of those witnesses and he claims the police did revisit him and his brother.

He recalls police driving them to a local cheese factory.

"They had us scared.  He said what are we going to do with them, talking to the others, what are we going to do?  Let's get rid of them.   So when they shot up against the wall, when they shot, when the bullets hit the wall, we were hollering, we thought we were shot.  I was looking for blood," McCall said.

When asked if the police firing a gun over their ahead was an attempt to prevent them from saying anything else about how Johnnie Robinson died, McCall answered, "I think that was what it was about.

Evidence in Johnny Robinson's death was presented to both the Jefferson County and Federal Grand Juries.

Neither would indict Officer Jack Parker, who was never charged in the case.

Parker resigned from the Birmingham Police Department ten years after the shooting.

He died from lung cancer in 1977; he was 62.

"I know officer parker's dead, and there won't be no justice, but I still would like the world to know what went down," Leon Robinson concluded.

Doug McCall hopes breaking fifty years of silence will help history remember what happened to his friend on a day many will never forget. 

"I am glad that it is all come to light, now, you know what I'm saying?  I am glad you done find out about most of it, you know what I'm saying?" McCall asked.

Doug's brother Lorenza, who was the only witness with Johnnie Robinson in the alley when Robinson was shot, died in 1989.

The FBI reopened the Johnnie Robinson case in 2008.

After reviewing all the evidence, it informed the Robinson family they were closing its investigation because the person responsible, Officer Jack Parker, was deceased.

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