BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - Two white Mississippi teenagers have been charged over the hit-and-run murder of a black man and the FBI is investigating, police said on Thursday.
The case has made national headlines because video of the incident, filmed by a hotel security camera, has been screened on cable television news.
James Craig Anderson, 49, an autoworker with Nissan, was returning to his car before dawn on June 26 when he was confronted by a group of eight white teenagers fresh from an all-night party, according to Colendula Green, public information officer for Jackson Metro Police.
An argument and assault ensued on the street outside the Metro Inn hotel, according to hotel general manager Val Patel, who watched security video of the incident and later turned it over to police.
One group of teenagers departed in a vehicle. A male and two females in another group drove a green F-250 pickup truck onto the curb, striking Anderson who died at the scene, Green told Reuters.
“The driver had an altercation with him and ran over James (Anderson),” said Green, adding that police picked up a suspect a few hours after the killing.
Deryl Dedmon, 18, was charged with murder and John Aaron Rice, 18, with simple assault. They have both undergone a preliminary hearing, though they are yet to plead.
The FBI is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation, said spokeswoman Deborah Madden. Civil rights violations can include hate crimes, she said.
An attorney for Rice denied hateful intent on the part of his client.
“He was out for a beer run,” said Sam Martin, attorney for Rice, who declined further comment.
The incident took place near a largely black section of state capital Jackson. The teenagers had arrived from Brandon, Mississippi, a predominantly white suburb, Green said.
“There is no doubt they were looking for a black victim to assault and even kill in this instance,” Robert Schuler Smith, Hinds County District Attorney, told CNN.
Dedmon’s bail rose from $50,000 to $800,000 because the civil rights charges may be added, according to Green.
(Writing by Matthew Bigg; Editing by Jerry Norton)
This story is corrected to clarify that FBI is investigating as a possible civil rights violation