22 in Elite Army Division Linked to Skinheads or Extremists

From Times Wire Services

Twenty-two soldiers in the elite 82nd Airborne Division have links to skinhead or extremist groups but there is no evidence of any organized racist group, the Army said Friday.

The internal investigation of the 15,000-member division was prompted by the arrest of three of its white soldiers in the Dec. 7 slayings of two black civilians.

The Army released a statement saying the names of the 22 soldiers have been passed to their commanders "for appropriate action," which officials declined to specify.

The investigation found no evidence of any formal ties to local or national organized movements, the statement said.

Nine soldiers were found involved with "white separatists and supremacists who espouse neo-Nazi-type ideology." Four others belong to a multiethnic group called Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), which occasionally fights with racist skinheads and apparently is united also by a taste for punk rock. One soldier belongs to a loosely defined group called "Independents," similar to the SHARPs.

Eight other soldiers appear to be former skinheads or hold white supremacist views but claim not to associate with any group.

It said the division has begun "an extensive education and training program for its soldiers."

Michael James, 36, and Jackie Burden, 27, were shot and killed as they walked in Fayetteville.

Pvt. James Burmeister, 20, of Thompson, Pa., and Pvt. Malcolm Wright Jr., 21, of Lexington, Ky., each are charged with two counts of murder. Authorities say they are self-styled skinheads who went looking for blacks to harass.

Spc. Randy Lee Meadows Jr., 21, of Mulkeytown, Ill., is charged with conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly driving the other two into Fayetteville the night of the slayings.

Burmeister had been given oral and written counseling in the past for extremist activities and had his security clearance revoked.

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