This is the sixth part of Overlooked, a new investigative podcast from KCUR. Start from the beginning here.
At first, the email seemed like a joke. It arrived from the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department in October 2021, announcing the opening of a museum in its headquarters.
This was especially strange considering all the allegations of corruption that had surfaced in the years after Lamonte McIntyre’s 2017 release from prison, where he’d spent 23 years for a crime he didn’t commit. McIntyre had been convicted on false testimony from witnesses who were forced to lie by former KCKPD detective Roger Golubski.
But the museum announcement was true: Artifacts from the department’s 123-year history and profiles of long-gone officers now have a designated space at the department’s headquarters in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.
Any mention of Golubski was notably absent. But in one corner was a memorial to one of his colleagues, Ruby Ellington, the first African American woman to serve as an officer in the KCKPD. She graduated in the same police academy class as Golubski in 1975 and worked in the department for 25 years before retiring in 2002.
Off duty, Ellington was active in her church. She was dedicated to her community. And she was also well known for being blunt. Before she died in 2019, Ellington filed an affidavit in the McIntyre case, talking about the department’s past.
According to Ellington, it was common knowledge that Golubski was obsessed with Black sex workers — she said the women were “typically drug-addicted as well as poor and powerless.”
All hours of the day and night, Ellington said, people would see Golubski driving around with the women. And, she said, it was an open secret within the department that Golubski had fathered several children with these women.
“I would sometimes hear talk about this when officers would gather at the beginning of their shifts,” Ellington said. “Someone would say something like, ‘I heard Roger has a new baby’ or ‘Roger has a new kid by one of his girlfriends.’”
He had his regular “girls,” as Ellington called them, who he protected when other officers arrested them. She said Golubski also used these women as informants to clear cases.
For many years, Ellington was the leader of the Kansas City, Kansas, Black Police Officers Association. When the group would meet at a local housing project, she said, they’d often see Golubski driving around with women in his car.
Ellington said other officers were also disturbed by his behavior — but they were afraid to say anything about it. And even if they did speak up, like Ellington did, there were no repercussions for his behavior. Golubski was, she said, “untouchable.”
But on the very same day KCKPD wanted to memorialize its past in the museum, another piece of its past surfaced. News broke on CNN just a few hours later that federal prosecutors had convened a grand jury investigation into Roger Golubski.
‘They showed mercy to this man’
Less than a year later, FBI agents arrested Golubski early in the morning at his home in Edwardsville. That day, Sept. 15, 2022, was an emotional one for many people living in Kansas City, Kansas.
Ophelia Williams, who is listed as O.W. in the FBI indictment against Golubski, got the news of his arrest around 7 a.m., when a female FBI agent she knew called her.
“I was like, ‘Why are you calling me so early in the morning?’" Williams says. "She said, ‘I have good news to tell you.’ She said, ‘I just arrested Roger Golubski.’"
Williams says she couldn't believe it.
“I was like, ‘quit playing.’ She said, ‘for real, I put handcuffs on him,’" Williams says. "I told her I'm so happy that this scumbag just got arrested.”
Williams is 60 now. According to the FBI indictment, she first met Golubski in the late 1990s, when he was arresting her 14-year-old twin sons for premeditated murder. He said he’d help her sons, that he could call in a favor, that he drank with the district attorney.
She still remembers how his gun was always visible — especially when he came back days later and raped her — something he continued to do for several years. She feared he would kill her.
The evening of Golubski’s arrest, victims’ families and social justice activists celebrated at Breit’s Stein and Deli, ordinarily a police hangout.
But behind the celebration was frustration that it had taken so long — and questions about what would happen next.
“It's still not over 'cause he got arrested. He gotta get convicted,” Williams said. “Roger Golubski should pay his debt.”
The federal indictment charged Golubski with civil rights violations for raping and kidnapping two women back in the 1990s — civil rights violations because it’s a crime for a government official, including a law enforcement officer, to deprive a person of federally protected civil rights.
It’s a tactic that allows federal agents to step in when the statute of limitations on state crimes such as rape and kidnapping have expired.
The day after Golubski’s arrest, federal prosecutors filed a motion arguing he was too dangerous to be allowed out of jail before his trial.
The motion went into unusually graphic detail, particularly about the teenager identified in the indictment as S.K.: The FBI said she was just 13 and in foster care at the time Golubski allegedly preyed on her — raping her, punching her, stalking her, degrading her for three years.
The motion detailed that Golubski threatened to kill S.K. or her beloved grandmother if she ever told anyone, told her that he ran the streets and she should obey him or else; that Golubski took S.K. to a cemetery, where he instructed her to dig her own grave.
Though it didn’t expand any charges against Golubski, the FBI’s motion did describe alleged sexual assaults against seven additional women who hadn’t been named in its indictment. The prosecutors’ argument was clear: Golubksi represented a continuing threat to the community.
At his hearing in federal court the following Monday, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Rachel E. Schwartz released Golubski to home detention.
While she acknowledged the “allegations of reprehensible conduct” and the “shocking” facts of the case, Schwartz said Golubski’s poor health conditions — including Type 1 diabetes and renal failure — meant he could no longer threaten or harass the women he’s accused of assaulting and raping.
Lamonte McIntyre, who now lives in Arizona with his mother, happened to be in town and came to the courtroom that day. The moment Schwartz made her ruling, McIntyre bolted from the courtroom.
“They showed mercy to this man when he didn't show no mercy to all them victims. You know how many victims this man is responsible for? A lot,” McIntyre said outside the courthouse. “He's the reason society is messed up. He's a part of the cancer that is society's problem. And he gets a pass still to this day.”
McIntyre said he hadn’t expected to become emotional, “but that stuff is crazy, man.”
But this was an example of how the justice system worked, he said. “It don't work the same way for everybody. It's still it unbalanced. It's not equal.”
All of the people who’d come to Topeka from Kansas City, Kansas, for that hearing were furious.
“They saying that this animal is sick,” Niko Quinn said of Golubski. “My sister's dead. My cousin's dead. My life has been ruined. The Unified Government, Kansas City, Kansas, did me wrong.”
Still, she wasn’t surprised by Golubski’s release.
“They arrested him just to make us feel good for the community. But I knew they were gonna let him out because he's one of them,” she said.
For Niko Quinn, this was just another example of the way it always goes in Kansas City, Kansas.
“I mean, for us, that was more of a normal thing,” Quinn said. “Because we knew that other people knew what he was doing. So, to, I guess it would be that white people just don't know what's going on in the real world or they just don't care. Or would I say people with a little bit more money than we was, there was more upper class knew about what was going on, but just didn't care because it wouldn't happen to their children.”
Corruption starts at the top
Two months after Golubski’s arrest, federal prosecutors added to their case against him — this time with even more graphic revelations.
Additional charges filed on Nov. 14, 2022, included conspiracy, kidnapping and aggravated sexual abuse. Prosecutors alleged that in the 1990s, drug dealers paid Golubski to help protect their sex trafficking operation involving underage girls.
Documents described how Golubski did business with Kansas City, Kansas, drug kingpin Cecil Brooks — the man who allegedly ordered the 1994 killing of Little Don and Donnie on Hutchings Street, the double murder for which McIntyre took the fall.
And prosecutors detailed the “involuntary servitude” of two then-teenaged girls, who were held captive at an apartment complex where they were allegedly raped by the traffickers and other men.
The FBI said Golubski preyed on these girls himself, and “primarily chose young Black girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old.” The indictment accused Golubski of raping one of the girls, who was 16 at the time.
The latest allegations earned more national headlines. But they weren’t news to people who’d tried to do something about Golubski’s behavior decades earlier.
One of those people was Tina Peterson, who worked the overnight shift at a shelter for abused women back in the late 1980s. According to an affidavit Peterson provided in Lamonte McIntyre’s case, women who came in to the shelter — many of whom sold sex just to survive — told her how Golubski had harassed and coerced them.
She said they were humiliated when they were dumped back on the street, still undressed, when Golubski was finished with them. Peterson said she made two calls to the KCKPD and told the person who answered the phone that she wanted to file a report against Golubski, but no one ever called her back.
The FBI also knew about problems in the KCKPD as far back as the late 1980s and early 1990s. Agents found that KCKPD officers routinely violated the civil rights of Black people, beat people in the city jail, committed robberies and dealt drugs. One agent wrote in a 1992 memo the problem was so bad because of corruption in the department and “general investigative incompetence.”
It took decades, but everything changed in 2017 when the McIntyre case became so public.
Stephen McAllister, a former U.S. Attorney in Kansas, says the media attention pushed him to ask the FBI to investigate again. And he agrees that the problem goes much deeper than Golubski.
"It's hard to believe others in the department didn't know some of what was going on,” McAllister says. “So, you know, whether there will be more indictments — that's entirely possible.”
During one of Golubski’s hearings in federal court, one prosecutor said they had a “tremendous amount” to add to the indictments.
Many people in Kansas City, Kansas, said Golubski’s arrest was a step in the right direction, but that the entire system must be held accountable for these horrors.
KCKPD officer Ruby Ellington said that a long time ago. She said the brass ignored Golubski’s behavior and, in fact, tacitly approved of it by promoting him up the chain to captain.
“He was a troublemaker. He was, the term I would say is underhanded,” says Max Seifert, a retired KCKPD detective who graduated from the police academy with Golubski and Ellington in 1975.
“I didn't know the depth of what was going on with his life, but I never trusted him,” Seifert says.
Seifert spent 31 years working with Golubski, even sharing an office with him, before he says he was forced into retirement. He later sued the Unified Government, saying department leaders retaliated against him for speaking up about the police beating of a motorist.
The case — in which a federal judge said Seifert was “balkanized for crossing the ‘thin blue line’” — was eventually settled out of court. But Seifert still recalls the office culture, describing it as a place where homicide detectives were “sacred cows.”
And as much as Golubski was terrorizing people in the community, he was also a pot stirrer in the office, Seifert says, sometimes pitting officers against each other. And he got away with a lot of bad behavior.
One time, Seifert says, Golubski was caught having a sexual encounter in the office.
“A detective opened the door without knocking and walked in and found Golubski in a compromising situation with a Black female,” Seifert says.
(When McIntyre’s lawyer, Emma Freudenberger, asked Golubski in a 2020 deposition whether a detective named Jimmy Bauer “walked in on you getting a blow job in your office,” Golubski invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.)
After Golubski got caught, Seifert says he expected the detective would be disciplined when the police chief called a meeting of the commanders.
“You're thinking, well, he called the commanders together to state, ‘We're not gonna put up with this, you know, this is what's gonna happen,’” Seifert remembers. “And his words to them about that incident were, ‘Don't you guys have locks on your doors?’”
That set an example, Seifert notes.
“It's like gravity. Corruption doesn't start from the bottom and go up. It starts from the top and comes down. That's corrupt,” he says. “And when the guys in the ranks, the lower ranks, see the commanders doing whatever they want to do, and it's not right, then they think, ‘Well, hey, why not?’”
Seifert suspects department leaders let this behavior slide was because they were profiting.
He can’t prove it, he emphasizes. But Seifert tells stories about commanders getting a cut of a pawn shop’s profits in exchange for police protection, or getting a sweet deal on real estate after looking the other way on criminal charges.
Other people, who didn’t want to go on record, told KCUR similar stories about other ways people in Golubski’s circles profited, either in the form of sex from his “girls” or with proceeds from the drug business. And it appears as if Golubski didn’t even try to conceal his efforts.
There have long been rumors of sex parties organized by law enforcement in Kansas City, Kansas — they even turned up in a book titled "Body Mike," written by former FBI informant Joseph Cantalupo and journalist Thomas C. Renner.
Niko Quinn heard about this as well, from her sister Stacey — who Golubski abused for years — and others.
“I was talking to some women and they would tell me, even Stacey used, tell me how they would get together and have parties,” she says. “They used to go and rob drug dealers and take they, whatever they got and they'll get these smokers and have parties.”
Quinn says politicians were also involved.
“The people higher up will sleep with these women or make these women do things to each other and sit back and watch and get a kick out of it,” she says.
Reporters have asked the department to speak to this. Mostly, the KCKPD’s response is that the Golubski-era business is in the past, and no one is around who remembers it all.
“There are very few people left that even knew Mr. Golubski on this police department,” said the newest police chief, Karl Oakman, just after taking office in June 2021.
“I can tell you from out talking to all the members on the police department, his name doesn't come up,” Oakman added. “But what does come up is the fact that the members are eager to move forward, to do some new things, to make some new connections in the community.”
Oakman did admit that Golubski “tarnished” the department. This was more than the previous police chief said.
Terry Zeigler, who served from 2015 to 2019, had been partners with Golubski for a few years into the early 2000s. He denied everything, calling allegations against the department “fake news.”
‘There was buy-offs. There was selloffs. There was murder’
It’s not just Black women who were allegedly abused by Roger Golubski and the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department. It was also Black men.
Since McIntyre’s exoneration, people have been coming forward to say their sons or brothers or uncles are wrongfully in prison or were killed, and they suspect police did something wrong.
In October, two cousins who were convicted of murder in 1997 appeared in Wyandotte County Court to ask for a new trial. Brian Betts and Celester McKinney had been convicted on witness testimony that was later recanted, the witness saying Golubski forced him to lie by threatening to charge him with murder.
An attorney at that hearing asked Golubski if he had a history of coercing people into false testimony.
“Never,” Golubski said.
Yet Betts and McKinney’s case has so many similarities to McIntyre’s that their attorneys are using McIntyre’s case as a blueprint to establish Golubski’s alleged pattern within a deeply corrupt department.
Betts and McKinney say Golubski was protecting a drug dealer who also happened to be the brother of his ex-wife.
“Everybody's hands was dirty. Everybody's hands was dirty,” says Saundra Newsom, the mother of Doniel Quinn — Little Don — one of the victims of the 1994 double homicide for which McIntyre was wrongly convicted.
Newsom is 71 now, retired from a long career with the federal government. She’s lived in Kansas City, Kansas, her whole life. She’s had a lot of experience with the KCKPD.
“There were too many players, far too many players in this group where everybody hid their hand. They hid their hand,” she says. “There was payoffs. There was kickbacks, there was buy-offs. There was selloffs. There was murder.”
Golubski made a pass at Newsom shortly after her son’s murder. Those memories are still fresh. Meanwhile, the cases of Little Don and Donnie Ewing have never been solved — and their families still want answers.
“When I think about what has happened, I actually feel like I'm in an ocean and I'm the only one in the boat and I'm hollering for help,” Newsom says.
Newsom says she’s happy for McIntyre and his family, who won $12.5 million in their civil lawsuit against the county government. She’s says she’s happy that one wrong was righted.
But her son is still dead. She wonders why she was left behind. She’s heard so many promises over the years, but no work has been done on the case.
Nor has a trial date has been set in Golubski’s case. And Newsom doubts that he or any other KCKPD officers will ever have to pay.
“There are so many police officers dead and gone,” she says. “Some of them old and in retirement homes who benefited from the corruption. Sure. In Kansas City, Kansas, there are so many police officers who got away with bloody murder.”
Even Mark Dupree, the district attorney who got Mcintyre out of prison, acknowledges that the community lost faith with the police department.
“There is no secret that the history our community has with law enforcement, specifically surrounding that detective, has many of our citizens with open wounds,” he says.
After winning McIntyre's exoneration in 2017, Dupree experienced firsthand the backlash of going up against the system. He says he’s had death threats and his church was defaced with paint.
And for the first time in his life, the minister from the inner city and former criminal defense attorney decided to carry a firearm.
“Yeah. They came for my wife and my kids,” he says. “But I’ve found — I think it was Frederick Douglass who said that without struggle, there is no progress. And I realized that this is a part of the struggle to have real progress in Wyandotte County.”
Kansas City, Kansas’ first Black mayor, Tyrone Garner, was elected in 2021, which also gave some people hope — but others are skeptical because Garner is a former KCKPD officer.
Garner spent more than 30 years in the department, some of those years overlapping with Golubski’s, including a stint as a detective in internal affairs. Yet he said he didn’t know anything about Golubski’s misconduct because it was up to department leaders to bring the cases to internal affairs.
After taking office, Garner created a Law Enforcement Advisory Board and appointed the Rev. Rick Behrens, pastor of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kansas, to chair it. He also said if there was evidence of corruption, he would take it to the U.S. Department of Justice himself.
So far, however, Garner has not made that call. And people kept track: On Garner’s 100th day in office in March 2022, social justice advocates held a press conference calling on him to ask the DOJ to look into allegations of systematic police misconduct.
“So let's be clear. Detective Roger Golubski is the villain of this story, but it's not just one person,” said Violet Martin of MORE2. “The whole system allowed him to not just exist, but thrive. The whole system turned a blind eye. The whole system participated in the cover up.”
Activists aren’t resting
If McIntyre’s case unveiled decades of corruption and abuse in the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, social justice organizers have amplified the news, making sure people in power can no longer ignore it.
After being ignored by the media and others for so long, these folks aren’t resting now that Golubski has been arrested and the charges against him are expanding.
One of the central groups is called MORE2 (Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity). Through a pandemic, through the Black Lives Matter protests, through hot and cold weather, through Zoom events, through voter registration drives, they met at churches and parks and City Hall and on the steps of the courthouse.
On Nov. 17, after the latest federal charges were filed against Golubski, representatives from Team ROC, Jay Z’s social justice foundation — which in the fall of 2021 filed a lawsuit seeking KCKPD records of officer misconduct and placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post calling for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation — arrived in town for a rally in front of the Unified Government building.
Activists made their demand again: They wanted a DOJ “pattern-or-practice” investigation, run by the Civil Rights Division, to look at excessive force, biased policing and other problems in the KCKPD.
Among the speakers was McIntyre, who had come to town from Arizona, where he now lives. McIntyre said he nearly cried when he saw the number of people, TV cameras and signs that said, “Hold Roger Golubski accountable.”
“I’m only here on behalf of all you victims and all the victims’ families, everybody who didn’t get justice, who feel like you didn’t get justice. This is what it look like,” McIntyre said, pointing to himself.
“I’m inspired. I love you people, man. Keep pushin’ the pedal! Keep movin’ it, man!” he told the crowd of about 200 people, who cheered and responded by with yells of “No justice, no peace!”
Hours after that rally, the Wyandotte County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to find $1.7 million Dupree had asked for, to digitize case files dating back decades. He said he wanted to review every case touched by Golubski.
Activists questioned the move.
“While we applaud the efforts from the Unified Government to encourage a full review, reports that KCKPD could be involved are a major red flag,” MORE2 said in a statement to KCUR. “As a department that shielded and protected Golubski, KCKPD should be nowhere near the review of his cases.”
“There has been a lack of transparency within the Unified Government, KCK police department, and the district attorney’s office,” added Justice for Wyandotte founder Khadijah Hardaway. “Therefore we believe a third party should step in to digitize the files and/or the Justice Department should set up office within these three entities to show ultimate transparency.”
Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Tyrone Garner, who walked by the rally, was asked about allegations that city and county government hasn’t done enough to investigate or help victims. He said the county is now lead by three Black men — himself, Police Chief Karl Oakman and District Attorney Mark Dupree — who are all bringing reforms.
“I think anybody that thinks otherwise, I just think they’re misguided in that notion that you would have three Black males that would sit on their hands in regards to allegations that allegedly affected the African American community,” Garner said.
For two years in a row, now, around the April 15 anniversary of the double homicide on Hutchings Street in 1994, Niko Quinn has gathered friends and family members at a park to have prayers and a meal.
She calls it a "Spiritual Sisters Sircle."
“This is my, I guess, somewhat like my sobriety,” she said in April 2022. “You know, ‘cause I've been through so much and instead of taking it and being a victim, I'm being a victor. So I do this in remembrance of my trauma 28 years ago.”
On her mind that day, first and foremost, was her sister Stacey. But also her cousin Doniel Quinn, one of the two men murdered in 1994. And, she said, “all the women that’s on that list.”
Niko had come a long way since she first began telling KCUR her story two years earlier. But she still fears for her safety. She thinks she’s been followed home a couple times and she recently bought a gun.
“And to me, with everything that we've been, I'm say I've been going through, I felt like that we were still on a plantation,” she said. “And the, the Unified Government (of Kansas City, Kansas), the police department, they was the slave masters because they tormented so many people in the community.”
But she’s taking advice she heard from her grandmother.
“I remember as a kid, remember my grandmother say, ‘You always gotta start back from the beginning.’”
That means she also likes to have events near the Quindaro Ruins, to remember the first enslaved African Americans who crossed the Missouri River to enter the free state of Kansas.
And she’s moving on. She has a full-time job driving a truck that carries mail. And her nephew, Stacey’s son Jornell, has moved in with her.
Her next project, she said, is to raise enough money to get a headstone for her sister Stacey’s unmarked grave.
Then, she hopes to be able to get a bigger house, so she can move in all of her family members and take care of them.
Subscribe now to Overlooked wherever you get podcasts. KCUR will continue reporting as these cases develop, so stay tuned to the feed and our website.
Overlooked is a production of KCUR Studios and the NPR Midwest Newsroom, and a member of the NPR Podcast Network.
It’s hosted by Peggy Lowe, with reporting by Peggy Lowe, Steve Vockrodt and Dan Margolies. Mackenzie Martin and Suzanne Hogan produced, mixed, and did the sound design for the podcast, with editing by CJ Janovy and mixing help from Paris Norvell. Digital editing by Gabe Rosenberg. Social media promotion by Allison Harris. Photos by Carlos Moreno and Julie Denesha. Artwork by Crysta Henthorne and Chandler Johnson of Kalimizzou. Music from Blue Dot Sessions.
Special thanks this episode to Steve Kraske, Genevieve Des Marteau, Lisa Rodriguez and Holly Edgell.