The Ex-Soldier Who Infiltrated the KKK and Exposed a ‘Despicable’ Murder Scheme
White supremacist movements’ ties to local, state, and national law enforcement is a grave topic that requires more serious investigation than Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK (April 27 on Hulu) is capable of undertaking. Nonetheless, as a small-scale portrait of the insidious danger posed by that relationship, it’s a harrowing true-crime tale that puts modern racists’ ugliness on full display, never more starkly than when one of its subjects—in a covert audio recording—says about poor Black Americans, “They’ll have sex with their sisters and they’ll snitch on their own brothers and mothers.”
The speaker in question is David “Sarge” Moran, who, along with his Caucasian friends Charles Newcomb and Thomas Driver, plotted in 2015 to kidnap and murder a Black man named Warren Williams. The reason for this lynching scheme was retaliatory. All three conspirators were colleagues at Florida’s Reception and Medical Center, and it was there that Driver had sparked an altercation with inmate Williams (who was in for a mental illness-instigated fracas with police) by antagonistically blowing smoke in his face. During the ensuing melee, Williams not only got the better of Driver, but bit him. In a subsequent chat with his buddies, Driver admits that he wants Williams assassinated because, “It will make me feel better that he won’t ever try anybody again,” and it will be adequate payback for forcing him to get post-bite medical tests, which left him “worrying that I’m gonna have to catch this shit from this dirty-ass monkey.”
A plan to kill Williams was subsequently hatched by the three pals, who were also colleagues in the Ku Klux Klan, in which Newcomb served as the Exalted Cyclops (i.e., the regional governor). To do their bidding, they enlisted the aid of their Grand Knighthawk, the outfit’s chief security officer, whose functions ranged from ceremonially lighting crosses to acting as a violent enforcer. In this case, that man was Joe Moore, a former army veteran and accomplished sniper who had been with the KKK for four years, and who committed to doing the job on their behalf.
The only thing was, Moore had ulterior motives for accepting this assignment: He was working undercover for the FBI.
A feature-length investigation by the Associated Press, ABC News, and George Stephanopoulos, who extensively interviews Moore throughout, Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK is an eye-opening peek into the inner workings of the century-old racist organization, all via Moore’s perspective. A husband and father of four who, following his military service, had previously gone undercover with the KKK on behalf of the FBI, Moore was approached in 2013 by a member of the joint terrorism task force while he was teaching classes at a shooting range to active-duty military and police personnel. Considering Moore’s background and skill set, the agent believed he’d be an ideal operative to once again ingrain himself into northern Florida’s KKK. And Moore—guided by a lifelong impulse to protect others, which came from his childhood victimization at the hands of sexual abusers—readily agreed to the offer.
Moore quickly rose through the ranks of the KKK, whose members were impressed with his military resumé—although, as Moore admits, he inflated his trained-killer reputation to make himself sound more appealing to his hateful associates. In a few short years, he attained the position of the Grand Knighthawk, and in 2015, that made him the badass that Newcomb, Moran, and Driver turned to when Williams became a target of their ire. Newcomb was the ringleader of this trio, and in one of many recordings captured by Moore (who wore a wire during portions of this sting operation), he relays his strategy to snatch Williams off the road, throw him in a car, inject him with lethal doses of insulin, and “let him start doing his floppin’.”
That racists exist in America, and spew cavalierly callous and disgusting things about minorities in private, is no bombshell. Yet to hear such unguarded opinions remains bracing, and Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK’s foulest moments often have to do with its caught-on-tape material. Listening to Newcomb and Moran chat nastily with Moore during a surveillance mission to check out Williams’ house—which is complicated by a pursuing undercover police car that dissuades them from taking action—is chilling. Things get even uglier once the FBI chooses to stage Williams’ death, replete with a fake photo of his dead body that makes it look like Moore completed his job, so Moore can use it to get the KKK villains to admit that this execution was what they wanted. “I love it! That fucker pissed himself,” is Moran’s gleeful reaction to the snapshot. “Good job!” Driver and Newcomb are similarly enthusiastic and impressed—expressions of happiness that ultimately sealed their legal fate once the tapes were played in court.
Associated Press reporter (and consulting producer) Jason Dearen provides both guiding narration and contextual commentary about Florida’s allegedly corrupt prison system, which serves as the state’s largest employer with over 80,000 inmates housed in more than 150 facilities. What Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK needs is more of the big picture regarding white supremacists’ participation in American law enforcement, since Moore’s story—as crazy as it is on its own—is really a symptom of a scarier and more widespread issue. It’s understandable that this Hulu special keeps its purview relatively limited, yet it nonetheless leaves one craving more about the depth and breadth of this pressing problem.
Keeping its focus narrow does result in some illuminating micro insights, such as the way in which the KKK uses coded acronyms—for example, A.Y.A.K. (“Are you a Klansman?”) and A.K.I.A. (“A Klansman I am”)—to greet and salute members in a way that verifies their legitimacy. Those details, as well as the surveillance material Moore acquired on his marks, help offset Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK’s overly dramatic imagery and cornily exaggerated sound cues, which strain to make things more unsettling. But there’s no need for such pushing when, as someone eventually states, “the facts of this case are despicable.”