According to Mrs. Russell’s petition, in the early hours of March 24, 1941, the white driver of a separate chartered civilian bus described Private King and his friends, who were sitting in the back of the bus, as “screaming , laughing and cutting out” and said he told them to shut up or they would be kicked out. The driver asked for help from Sergeant Lummus, who was patrolling the road on a motorcycle.
Sergeant Lummus ordered Private King and his friend Private Lawrence J. Hoover to get off the bus. As they disembarked, Sergeant Lummus hit Private Hoover in the back of the head with a blackjack. Private King fled, while a dozen white soldiers from the bus beat Private Hoover until he was semi-conscious, according to the petition. (He later served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, according to The Washington Post.)
Sergeant Lummus was the only person to testify to what happened next. The sergeant said he found Private King and ordered him to stop. Sergeant Lummus said the soldier started running towards him and “kept coming” as the sergeant fired five shots.
According to Ms Russell’s call, three shots hit Private King in the side of the head and neck, and there was one in the lower back and one in the front of the body.
Fort Benning’s investigation into the murder began and ended the same day Private King was killed. A military tribunal determined that Sergeant Lummus, who was transferred to Fort Knox, Ky., was vindicated in the fatal shooting.
A second independent investigation by a board of officers determined that Private King had died in the line of duty. Less than two weeks later, however, the commanding general of Fort Benning, Major General Lloyd Fredendall, ordered that the board reconsider its findings, and the decision was reversed.
Decades later, researchers from the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law explored Private King’s story and published an investigation in The Washington Post.