Police are investigating a brutal beating at a Mississippi restaurant that some are calling revenge for the killing of black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
A verbal alternation between two white men and up to seven black men began at a West Point, Mississippi, Waffle House shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.
The restaurant’s management warned the two groups to “take it outside” and the two whites, Ralph Weems and David Knighten, left the scene after words were exchanged. About an hour later, the men stopped at a Huddle House restaurant and realized they had been followed by “about 20 people,” according to a local TV station. The verbal confrontation resumed and, this time, it turned violent.
When police arrived at the Huddle House about 2:10 a.m., they found Weems, a 32-year-old former Marine, lying in the parking lot severely beaten. Two men were bent over Weems trying to render aid, police said, but all of the beating suspects were gone. Weems was airlifted to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo where he underwent emergency brain surgery, according to a family member, and was put into a medically induced coma.
“They’re going to try and wake him up tomorrow and see what damage was done,” Bradley Barnes told the Associated Press, describing his brother-in-law as a former Marine who served in Iraq.
Weems was listed in fair condition Sunday, according to a hospital spokeswoman. His friend, Knighten, an Air Force veteran, was also beaten and received less severe injuries. He was treated and released.
Knighten told AP he and Weems had gone to a Waffle House early Saturday. He said a man waved him over outside the restaurant and warned him that people were upset by the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and it wasn’t a safe place for whites. He went inside anyway, he said, and saw Weems arguing with some of the men.
They left after an argument that brought police, Knighten said. He told AP he showed those officers his .45-caliber handgun and his concealed carry permit.
Police Chief Tim Brinkley told WND it remains unclear if all of the parties were involved in both incidents at the Waffle House and later at the Huddle House. Witnesses on the scene were interviewed but were unable to give any details leading to the identity of the aggressors, but videotape from surveillance cameras at both restaurants is being studied, Brinkley said.
“The witnesses described the aggressors as a group of black males but couldn’t provide any other information,” according to a police statement. “The victim of the assault is white.”
Weems and Knighten were at Waffle House and got into an argument “with as many as seven men,” Brinkley told WND.
Local WCBI-TV reported the incident “involved some racial slurs.”
Weems and Knighten left and went to the Huddle House, the station said, and the other group followed
But Brinkley was hesitant to label the incident as racially motivated. He said his investigation has turned up no evidence of racial slurs, and if slurs were used, that does not automatically qualify the case as a hate crime.
“And right now we are investigating it as an aggravated assault, not a hate crime. We know there’s an aggravated assault, we don’t know that the actions and the evidence will support a hate crime, but if we get enough evidence to support that then we can amend the charges at that time,” Brinkley said in a phone interview Monday.
“But for now it’s just an aggravated assault. Just because the suspects are black and the victim was white, on the face of it, does not mean that it was a hate crime. But if it appears it was a hate crime as we get further into the investigation, then we will treat it as such.
“It’s very early in this investigation, but thus far the evidence and statements suggest that a verbal altercation turned physical and somebody got hurt.”
Others were not as sanguine.
“There is an enormous amount of racial hostility seeping into more and more of our everyday activities,” said Colin Flaherty, a journalist who has chronicled in his book, “White Girl Bleed A Lot,” black-on-white violence and how the mainstream media tends to downplay or ignore such crimes.
Flaherty said the Mississippi incident seems to be a clear case of black men targeting a couple of white restaurant patrons, almost killing one of them.
“The local papers say it was a fight. It was not. The local restaurant where the assault took place told everyone to ‘take it outside,'” Flaherty said.
Black mobs routinely terrorize cities across the country, but the media and government are silent. Read the detailed account of rampant racial crime in “White Girl Bleed A Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It.”
Flaherty sees another case of “Routine Activity Theory” or RAT, which he says leads to white people being subjected to violence when they enter black neighborhoods.
“This was true before Ferguson and after,” he told WND. “But local and national media do not report black-on-white racial violence, putting people like this in an enormous amount of danger because they are not aware of the peril of going into certain places and certain times.”
In Chicago over the weekend, there were two police-related shootings.
“During at least one of the shootings, the crowd taunted and attacked the police. Shouting ‘hands up, don’t shoot,'” Flaherty said. “But still, we learn from reporters at Ferguson and other places that the problem is white racist violence directed at innocent teenagers like Michael Brown. Spike Lee says there is a war on black people.”
A preliminary investigation has revealed officers were also called to the Waffle House restaurant an hour earlier involving the same victim, according to the police statement.
One witness provided a vehicle description, and police are working on identifying the owner.
Flaherty said that until reporters are willing to identify black-on-white crime, the problem of racial violence “will only get worse.”
“And today, racial violence is reaching a new level: Reporters used to just ignore it, but when confronted with it, might excuse it,” he said. “Today, black reporters and liberal reporters are taking it to a new level at newspapers across the country: Black mob violence is justified because of white racism that exists everywhere and is permanent.”
Brinkley said there are elements trying to jump to conclusions and make West Point “a mini Ferguson.”
“We’re going to consult with the District Attorney’s office, but a hate crime is when somebody is victimized solely because of a racial bias, a religious or sexual bias, on the basis of just that,” he said. “In the absence of that, it’s just a verbal altercation that turned violent. Just because racial remarks were used, and we’re still investigating whether or not some racial remarks were used in this incident, but just because racial remarks were used does not make it a hate crime. It could have just been a fight.”
Brinkley said he was getting phone calls Monday “from all over the country because everyone is trying to tie this to the situation in Ferguson.
“Somebody is perpetrating that someone made a comment that this (beating) was in retaliation for Ferguson, and we’re just not seeing it at this point in our investigation,” he continued. “They’re trying to make this a mini Ferguson. If it gets to that point, then we’ll deal with it, but at this point we don’t know where that’s coming from. We’ve got a good idea where it’s coming from, but none of the people we’ve interviewed have told us that.”
He said he also does not know where the reports of “20 black men” are coming from. Witness interviews and the video surveillance tapes, he said, indicate there were no more than seven black people involved in the attack.
As for the investigation, he said he expects to make at least one arrest as early as later today.
“We’re developing a list of suspects. There is video surveillance that’s being reviewed, and we’re working with another agency close by, and we think we have identified at least one person, in the video, and that’s going to move our investigation way up,” he said “The man that got injured in this – and the family released the name, not us – he is in very serious condition and his injuries are life-threatening.”
There is one other issue Brinkley said he finds perplexing.
“The victim and the guy who was with the victim were there when our officers arrived, but all the perpetrators had left the scene, and so one of the things we’re looking at is why it took so long for somebody to call the police,” he said.
Brinkley, the police chief, said he hopes the men involved will come forward voluntarily before arrest warrants are issued.
There is a reward of up to $1,000 through the Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the West Point Crime Stoppers at (800) 530-7151 or the West Point Police Department at (662) 494-1244.