When LSU alumna and former Reveille Opinion Editor Rachel Mipro earned third place in the Explanatory Reporting competition of the 2021-2022 Hearst Journalism Awards Program for her LSU Cold Case Project story, she was most appreciative that more people learned the truth about a racial injustice incident that happened in Monroe, Louisiana in 1960.
“I’m grateful to have been selected and especially grateful to be able to promote more awareness of the case,” Mipro said.
The story is part of a series about Robert Fuller for the LSU Cold Case Project. Students in the Manship School’s field experience course work on the project. The students provide stories, photos and investigative research about unsolved civil rights murders to newspapers, TV stations and digital news sites in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Fuller was a sanitation business owner-turned-statewide Ku Klux Klan leader who shot five of his Black male employees. Consequently, four of the men died.
Fuller claimed he shot the employees out of self-defense because they were swarming him with knives. An all-white jury charged the surviving employee with attempted murder. Students in the field experience course used dozens of interviews and FBI files to write stories that challenge Fuller’s self-defense claims.
Mipro’s story, “Horrific 1960 Louisiana Killing of 4 Black Men Leaves Unanswered Questions,” is the first piece published in the series. In the story, the LSU alumna examines Fuller’s violent past, his former neighbors’ commentary on how Fuller isolated his family from the community and the tensions he had with the five employees to help unveil what really happened on the day of the incident.
“I feel honored to have been able to help tell this story,” Mipro said. “Everything about the piece was really enriching, especially listening to the stories of those in the neighborhood at the time.”
The reporting process was challenging for Mipro. It was hard for her to keep the story concise because there was so much information about the case. For instance, she and the Cold Case team found that a Black family moved into Fuller’s house without knowing the history of the shootings, which was not published in print for the series.
“It’s heartbreaking when you think about everyone who was affected by this horrific event, and how many people are still affected by it today,” Mipro said.
Mipro and her team hope to provide a sense of closure to people in the Monroe community who were affected by the incident.
“On a larger scale, there has been a worrying rise in hate crimes in the past few years,” Mipro said. “One interviewee told me that the Klan isn’t dead —it’s still alive and well. Examining injustices done in the past helps us look at patterns happening now.”
Written by Jasmine Edmonson