By Alan Bean
While The Help transported America back to Jackson, MS circa 1963, a young white Jackson man named Daryl Dedmon was determined to prove that nothing has changed in Jackson.
It could be argued, in fact, that Dedmon’s decision to run over a man he and his friends had already beaten to a bloody pulp was far more senseless than hate crimes perpetrated against black Mississippians during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras. Violence back then had a clear purpose: maintaining Jim Crow and white supremacy. Perpetrators weren’t necessarily seething with hatred, they were simply making a point (the lives of black people are worthless) and inspiring an emotion (terror). That was the message whenever hapless black men were lynched by smiling crowds throughout the South.
What kind of message were Mr. Dedmon and his friends sending? The only silver lining clinging to the edges of this story is the response of Jackson residents, black and white. Dedmon et al didn’t mean to unite their community, but that’s what they did.
Normally, I wouldn’t assume the guilt of the defendants, but these guys were caught by a surveillance camera.
Vigil for James Craig Anderson is held in Jackson parking lot where White teens are suspected of intentionally targeting Black victim for brutal attack caught on videotape
Religious and community leaders in Jackson, Miss. led a march and vigil on Sunday for James Craig Anderson, the Black man who authorities say was killed in June by a White teenager who shouted racial slurs after running the 49-year-old over with his car on June 26.
Escorted by police and singing “We Shall Overcome,” marchers walked down Ellis Avenue to the site of the hit-and-run killing, as faith leaders decried a killing that shocked a community and has drawn international headlines. When they arrived, a wreath and candles were laid down as demonstrators joined hands in solidarity.
“The people of God should rise up and say, ‘That’s not who we are,'” Chip Henderson, pastor of Pinelake Church, was quoted as saying by the Clarion-Ledger. “A great injustice has been done, and as a people of justice, forgiveness, love and hope, we can’t just sit back and let something like this happen.” Speaking to the assembled, Rabbi Valerie Cohen added: “Love is a better way to live. “We’re here to get beyond the hatred.”
Authorities say Dedmon, 18, led a group of teenagers who allegedly beat Anderson repeatedly, yelled racial epithets, including “White Power!” according to witnesses.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith says a group of the teens then climbed into their large Ford F250 green pickup truck, floored the gas, and drove the truck right over Anderson, killing him instantly.
Mississippi officials say it was a racially motivated murder. What the gang of teens did not know was that a surveillance camera was focused on the parking lot that night, and many of the events, including the actual murder of Anderson, were captured live on videotape.
CNN has exclusively obtained that surveillance tape. The group of teens that night was led by 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon, Jr., of Brandon, Mississippi, according to police and officials.
“This was a crime of hate. Dedmon murdered this man because he was black,” said Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. “The evidence will show that.”
Asked if there could be any doubt whether the intent was to actually hurt and kill a black person, Smith responded: “No doubt about it. They were going out to look for a black victim to assault, and in this case, even kill.”
Dedmon led and instigated the attack from early in the evening, he took part in the beating of Anderson, and Dedmon was also the actual driver of the Ford 250 truck that would serve as the murder weapon, according to officials.
As the teens were partying and drinking miles away from Jackson that night, in largely white Rankin County, Dedmon told friends they should leave, saying “let’s go fuck with some niggers,” according to law enforcement officials.
Then, the gang of teens climbed into Dedmon’s green truck and a white SUV Cherokee, and drove 16 miles down Interstate 20, to the western edge of Jackson, a predominantly black area.
The teens would have seen Anderson immediately as they exited the highway, as the parking lot where he was standing is just beside the exit ramp.
“This is the first business that you get to coming off the highway and so that was the first person that was out here and vulnerable,” said district attorney Smith.
On the videotape, obtained and reviewed by CNN, the group of teens is seen pulling into the parking lot, and stopping where Anderson is standing, though he is just off camera and not visible.
The teens can then be seen going back and forth between their cars and Anderson. Witnesses told law enforcement officials this is when the repeated beatings of Anderson took place.
Dedmon pummeled Anderson repeatedly as he crumpled to the street, according to officials, though this is not visible in the videotape. Finally, after the beating some of the teens left and some got into the green truck.
At this moment on the video, Anderson becomes visible, as he staggered into view and walked towards the headlights of the truck. The truck suddenly surges ahead, running over Anderson, then continuing at high speed away from the scene.
CNN Wire contributed to this report.