MUSKEGON, Mich. — City leaders in Muskegon have released a redacted copy of the internal investigation into a city police officer with a framed Ku Klux Klan (KKK) application discovered in his home.
Officer Charles Anderson was fired earlier this month after the KKK document and Confederate flags were found in his home by a couple in August. According to the 400-page report released by Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson and the city attorney's office, Robert and Reyna Mathis toured Anderson's home with their 12-year-old daughter, 21-year-old son and his girlfriend, along with their realtor on Aug. 7. Anderson and his family were not present during the tour.
While touring the home, the couple discovered multiple Confederate flag-related items inside the garage and the dining area. Robert Mathis found a framed, blank KKK application on the wall of a bedroom on the second floor of the home. Robert and his wife Reyna were upset by the discovery and according to the report, shared on Facebook what they found, which went viral with more than 2,000 shares and 3,000 comments.
The post was brought to the Muskegon Police Department's attention and Anderson was placed on leave and an internal investigation of the situation was opened.
The report indicates that Anderson denied ever being a member, supporter or being influenced by the KKK. He told investigators that the Confederate items the Mathis family saw in his home were part of an extensive collection of "Dukes of Hazard" memorabilia he has collected over the years. Most of his collection was put away into storage in anticipation of selling the home, but the report says he simply "forgot" the application was in his antique collection room.
Anderson said the framed KKK application is from the 1920s, was purchased from an Indiana vendor about six years prior to this incident and collected as part of Anderson's "interest in American history and antiques." Anderson described himself in the investigation as an "amateur historian and collector of antique items" from the late 1800s to the 1960s.
When asked if he left the items up in his home to dissuade a minority buyer from making an offer, the report indicated that Anderson didn't care who his home got sold to. The Anderson family realtor -- whose name was redacted -- said she and her staff didn't even notice the framed application on the wall of his antique room. The framed application fit with the décor of the room it was in, so she paid no further attention to it.
The Anderson family realtor said she's known the Anderson family for many years and has also known they have bought and sold antiques and were avid collectors in the time she's known them.
Anderson said in the report, had the Mathis family contacted him, he would have been happy to explain why he owned the items, shown them his collection and apologize to them --“he meant no one any harm by it.”
According to the report, Robert and Reyna Mathis claimed to not know Charles Anderson and that the home they toured was his until after everything transpired -- however, according to police reports included in the report, the couple have had a total of six run-ins with Officer Anderson with the two most notable incidents taking place in 2008.
Back in July 2008, Robert Mathis was pulled over by Anderson for speeding. Reyna (then Arizola) was in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Robert got out of the vehicle and refused to follow Anderson's orders. The records in the report say Reyna also got out of the vehicle, refused to follow Anderson's orders and hit him in the face and eye. Rob was given a ticket for speeding and Reyna was taken to the county jail for obstruction and assault of an officer. She pled guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and $414 in fines.
Reyna Mathis said Monday she didn't realize the connection until she read the internal investigation on the city's website.
"Not until today," she said. "Until the report came out I had no clue."
Mathis says she didn't serve any time in jail from that incident. In fact, she claims the charge was reduced because Muskegon Police couldn't produce dash camera video from Anderson's cruise during the traffic stop.
She does say she completed a long probations sentence.
A second incident took place in October 2008 following reports of a bar fight at Brews and Cues Bar where Reyna was involved. She was drunk and arrested on two outstanding failure to appear bench warrants. She was taken to jail in that incident as well.
The couple denies claims some have made on social media he and his wife targeted the officer's home.
"We did not," Rob said.
They both question the reasons Anderson gave investigators for having the items on display.
"I could see if he had a picture of the car, the General Lee, that was not there," Rob said.
"I don't buy it," Reyna added. "I think it's just an excuse."
Noticeably absent from all 421 pages is any reference of Officer Anderson breaking Muskegon Police Department policies.
The report says the couple's discovery created waves in the African American community in Muskegon. Local pastors and social justice leaders were interviewed in the investigation and say the African American community lost faith, confidence and trust in Officer Anderson. The mere possession of the application and Confederate flag items caused the community to look unfavorably on the whole department -- not just Anderson. The report indicated that community leaders said if Anderson did return to the department, "the city would go wild."
This report, which was completed near the end of August, gave City Manager Frank Peterson the means to fire Anderson -- although the Muskegon Police Chief Jeffrey Lewis told the city commission that there was no "smoking gun" found.
The released report includes Anderson's personnel file containing 16 letters of appreciation or awards for bravery and going beyond the call of duty. There are no documented disciplinary actions in the report.
Anderson advised investigators he considers himself a member of the community who is strongly against the Ku Klux Klan and what that organization stands for.
Robert and Reyna Mathis have reported receiving death threats since sharing what they discovered in Anderson's home.
Muskegon Police Chief Jeffrey Lewis said Monday he couldn't talk about the report due to the fact it's an active labor case and in litigation.
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