York, Pa., Mayor Surrenders on Murder Charges

Mayor Charlie Robertson surrendered today on charges of murder in the 1969 shooting death of a black woman during race riots.

An affidavit quotes a co-defendant as saying Robertson gave him the ammunition used to shoot at her and told him to kill blacks.

Reporters and photographers swarmed around Robertson as he arrived at the office of District Justice Barbara Nixon for his arraignment.

The arraignment proceeding was brief, and Nixon set May 25 as a tentative date for Robertson's preliminary hearing. He was taken to the York County Courthouse for an expected bail hearing.

‘Gave Ammunition, Told Them to Kill’

An affidavit was filed in conjunction with the mayor's arraignment. In it, Rick Lynn Knouse, one of five other men charged in the case, told a grand jury that Robertson, a city policeman at the time, gave him ammunition for his 30.06 hunting rifle and instructed him to "kill as many niggers as you can."

Knouse said he used the ammunition that Robertson provided to fire on the car in which the black victim, Lillie Belle Allen, was riding when she was killed, according to the affidavit.

Robertson, accompanied by his lawyer Richard Oare and city Police Commissioner Herbert Groscsik, said as he arrived at Nixon's office that he "absolutely" maintains his innocence. He has admitted in the past only that he said "white power" during the riots.

Robertson Had Just Won Primary

Just Tuesday, the two-term mayor defeated City Councilman Ray Crenshaw, the first black to run for mayor in city history, in a close Democratic primary.

Prosecutor Tom Kelley had declined to comment Wednesday on Robertson's statement that he expected to be charged, citing a gag order. Robertson's attorney has said the mayor is being politically targeted.

Robertson has faced speculation about his involvement in the July 21, 1969, shooting death of Allen since the first of five other defendants in the case were arrested last month.

Allen was one of two people killed during the riots. No charges had been filed in either case until last month.

Robertson, 67, has admitted yelling "white power" at a rally the night before Allen was killed, but he has denied involvement in her death.

Court papers charging the first two suspects refer to an "unnamed police officer" who screamed "white power!" at a rally in a park.

Denying Accusations

The papers say the same officer provided ammunition to at least one of the men who fired on Allen's car, and urged "commando raids" in black neighborhoods. Robertson denies giving away any ammunition or making the "commando raids" comment.

Police said Allen, 27, a native of Aiken, S.C., and family members had driven into the neighborhood of a white gang during one night of rioting. Allen got out of the car, waved her arms and yelled "don't shoot" but was hit by a bullet, investigators said.

The riots, which lasted 10 days, began after a white gang member shot and wounded a young black man in the city 85 miles west of Philadelphia.

The other person killed in the riots was Henry Schaad, a white rookie police officer. More than 60 people were injured, 100 were arrested and entire city blocks were burned.

But Admits He Had ‘Racist Feelings’

Although Robertson has denied any responsibility for Allen's death, he has said he had racist feelings after his father was mugged by three black men in the 1950s.

"I tried so hard when I was a police officer not to let that interfere," Robertson told the York Daily Record. But he said the police department had a culture of racism in the 1960s.

The inquiry in York follows cases reopened by Southern prosecutors and civil rights advocates. Earlier this month, ex-Ku Klux Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., church in which four black girls were killed.