(FinalCall.com) – A Mississippi district attorney says he intends to pursue murder and hate crime indictments against two White suspects in the homicide death of a Black male, who was allegedly ran over earlier this summer by a pickup truck.
“Our presentation before a grand jury may be in a couple months or less. We intend to prove to the grand jury that the suspects intentionally sought out a Black person to mess with that day and that this was a murder and a hate crime,” Robert Shuler Smith, Hinds County district attorney, told The Final Call in a phone interview on Aug. 12.
“This case is on-going so it’s possible that evidence will show that there may have been other suspects involved in this crime,” said Mr. Smith.
“The family is devastated. We’re working to file a wrongful death lawsuit before the end of August,” Winston Thompson III, a lawyer from the Cochran Firm that’s representing the victim’s family, told The Final Call.
According to Mr. Thompson, a former asst. district attorney, the family has yet to speak out publicly regarding the case due to personal matters being handled. “But soon the sister of the victim may be delivering a statement to the press on behalf of the family. It is really hard on them right now,” he said.
According to Mr. Smith, James Anderson was standing near his vehicle in a motel parking lot off the Interstate in Jackson, Miss. on June 26 around 5a.m. Two carloads of White teenagers allegedly had left an all-night party a few miles away in pursuit of a Black person to harass. Once they exited the interstate, they spotted Mr. Anderson and allegedly brutally beat him up.
One of the vehicles reportedly fled the scene and Mr. Anderson was limping alongside the parking lot. The other vehicle, a Ford truck, was accelerated in the direction of Mr. Anderson and struck him head on. Mr. Anderson was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Prior to his death, he was an assembly line worker at a nearby Nissan automotive plant.
“I believe this is in some way a microcosm of a larger problem in our communities throughout Mississippi,” said Mr. Smith, who is the first Black male DA in that county and is completing his first term.
“I am saddened that a horrific act like this, which appears to be motivated by hate, can still occur in 2011,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous in a statement.
“We are glad that two of the alleged attackers have been charged, and hope all individuals responsible are brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.
Witnesses reportedly told local authorities that the White teens were cheering as they beat Mr. Anderson and one allegedly yelled “White power.”
The driver behind the wheel of the truck that struck Mr. Anderson was 18-year-old blonde Deryl Dedmon, who was charged with murder and is still behind bars on $800,000 bond. Two girls, who were in the truck with Mr. Dedmon, were not charged according to authorities.
Another suspect, John Rice, 18, was also originally charged with murder but had his charges dropped to simple assault by a Hinds County judge. He was released on $5,000 bail. Both suspects are reportedly from Brandon, Miss., and no pleas have been entered by either of them.
The case has drawn national attention since footage of the alleged hit-and-run was obtained and aired by CNN on August 7. The video was taken from the motel surveillance camera and has been heavily circulated online.
“My deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of James Anderson. I have full confidence in the county prosecutor that the family will see justice in the matter,” stated Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, in a statement.
Mr. Thompson attended the funeral of Mr. Anderson back in June and said he didn’t expect this case to “blow up” as it has. “It is so tragic the way he died. Since that video was broadcasted we’ve been receiving so many calls. The family is still in shock by this death,” he said.