Feds probing black man's Mississippi murder

Deryl Dedmon, 18, is led into a van by police July 6, 2011. WJTV-TV

The Department of Justice has confirmed to CBS News that it is investigating the June 26th beating and killing of Jackson, Miss., man James Craig Anderson.

Currently, only 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon is charged with murder, as it is believed he was the driver of the pick-up truck which ran over Anderson and caused his death. He's being held in the Hinds County jail on an $800,000 bond.

The FBI, under the direction of the Civil Rights division, is leading the federal probe. The Jackson DA's office is currently investigating additional charges against the other teens involved in the incident through a Grand Jury, which could hand up indictments in the coming weeks. So far, none of the others have been charged.

The case received widespread attention after the release of security surveillance video from a nearby hotel which caught Dedmon's truck running over Anderson, although the DOJ insists it was investigating the incident as a hate crime before the video was released.

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The lawyer of John Aaron Rice, the alleged passenger in Dedmon's vehicle, suggested during a bond hearing last month that Rice had no knowledge of any plan to indiscriminately attack a black man, which the teens had been accused of previously.

Jackson Police Detective Eric Smith has testified that Dedmon had been robbed by a black man in the weeks before Anderson's death and was looking for "some sort of revenge" when the group left a party in Rankin County, allegedly in search of a random black person "to mess with." Seven people headed to Jackson in two cars, with Dedmon and Rice in separate vehicles.

The district attorney has said racial slurs were used during the attack and that Dedmon later bragged that he "just ran that n****r over."

But during the hearing in July, Martin suggested the teens went to Jackson to buy beer because it isn't sold that late in Rankin County — not to look for a black man. Martin pointed out that Rice wasn't in the truck and that he wasn't at the scene when Anderson was hit. The line of questioning also revealed that no witness at that time had said Rice was the one using racial slurs.

The detective testified that Rice was a passenger in a white Jeep that arrived first at the hotel, which is just off Interstate 20 and next to a Wendy's. Smith said Rice saw Anderson near a car and thought he was trying to break into it. Instead, police said, Anderson had locked his keys inside his own vehicle.

Rice told authorities he tried to help Anderson get into the vehicle, but the detective said an altercation took place when Dedmon arrived.

"All of the evidence shows that, in fact, (Rice) was trying to help Mr. Anderson prior to Deryl Dedmon getting there," Martin said during the hearing.

"Yes, sir," the detective replied.

The detective said four people got out of the vehicles before the fight with Anderson, though he said only Rice and Dedmon assaulted him. The officer said Rice punched Anderson, knocking him down, before Dedmon attacked the dazed man.

Rice's lawyer disputes that his client was the instigator.

Dedmon was pulled over on Interstate 20 in Rankin County later that morning. Rice was arrested a few days later. Authorities have not ruled out that others at the scene could be charged.

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