A Mississippi prosecutor is expected this month to try and convince a grand jury to indict two white teenagers in an alleged hate crime earlier this summer where a black man was run down by a pickup truck after being beaten up.
The case has gained national attention after CNN Sunday broadcast grainy surveillance video of the man being run down outside a Jackson, Miss., hotel parking lot.
James Anderson was run over by a Ford pickup near dawn June 26 and died later in a hospital, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said.
"It was an intentional act and it was a hate crime," Smith said during a July 6 bond hearing for Deryl Dedmon, who is accused of driving the truck.Smith said Dedmon and John Aaron Rice, both 18, were looking for a black man to assault in Mississippi's largest city when the 49-year-old African-American was run over after he had been assaulted, killing him.
(Warning: The CNN video at left contains graphic footage of the alleged hit-and-run, which appears at the 3:15 mark.)
Both teenagers were charged with murder in Anderson's death, but a judge reduced the charge against Rice to simple assault, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Neither man has entered a plea.
Smith said Dedmon called a friend after the alleged crime and said, "I just ran that nigger over."
"Dedmon murdered this victim because he was a black man," Smith said. "We do have information that they were rejoicing after killing the victim."
Dedmon's attorney, Lee Agnew, said during court that he's seen nothing to back up the "racial allegations."
Dedmon, a thin teen with blond hair, shook his head from side-to-side during the bond hearing when Smith questioned a police detective and suggested that Anderson had been run over several times.
The hate crime allegations resonated in Mississippi, which long had a history for racial violence against blacks, particularly during the civil rights struggle.
The Times reported that one of the teenagers yelled "white power" after the assault, according to a hotel worker who saw the attack.
Smith said the teenagers were looking for a black person to, according to one witness, "mess with" after an all-night party 16 miles away from Jackson, the Times reported.
Anderson was run over in a part of Jackson known for drug activity, though an attorney for his relatives said the case had nothing to do with drugs. Dedmon was arrested later that morning after being pulled over on Interstate 20. Witnesses provided police with a description of the truck and authorities were looking for it.
There were two teenage girls in the truck with Dedmon, Smith said. Det. William Waples testified that one of the girls first told police it was an accident and that Dedmon tried to go around Anderson, but he said she later changed her story. The Times reported that the girls were not charged.
Rice and others at the scene left in a different vehicle, Smith said.
A woman who identified herself as Rice's mother, but didn't give her name when contacted by phone, said her son wasn't in the truck with Dedmon. "My son was not even in that vehicle. My son is innocent."