JACKSON, Miss. – The family of a black man who authorities say was run over by a white teenager in a truck filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday over the alleged hate crime.
The lawsuit accuses seven white teenagers of setting out on June 26 after a night of partying to find a random black man to harass. The accusation tracks with police allegations that a group of teens were out looking for a black man to "mess with" when they found 49-year-old James Craig Anderson before dawn in the parking lot of a Jackson hotel.
Investigators have said two of the teens attacked Anderson before one of them climbed into a green Ford F-250 and ran the man down near the hotel on Ellis Avenue.
Two of the defendants in the lawsuit also face criminal charges. Deryl Dedmon, 19, is charged with capital murder and robbery in Anderson's death. Authorities say Dedmon ran over Anderson and later bragged about it.
John Aaron Rice is charged with assault. Police say he attacked Anderson before he was run over.
Dedmon appeared briefly Tuesday in a Hinds County court for a preliminary hearing on the criminal charges, but the hearing was postponed until Sept. 26. There was heavy security in court with nearly a dozen sheriff's deputies, some wearing bulletproof vests.
Dedmon was shackled and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit. His shaggy blond hair had been cut short.
The young men's lawyers say their clients were not involved in a racially motivated attack.
The five other people named as defendants in the lawsuit include two teenage girls who allegedly were in the truck with Dedmon when Anderson was run down.
During a Tuesday news conference, Winston Thompson, an attorney for Anderson's relatives, said the seven teens acted in a "joint venture" to harm a black person.
"We allege that they acted as a group, as one," Thompson said.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, but Thompson said he also wants to make sure all the facts come out. The Southern Poverty Law Center is assisting Thompson with the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said Rice, Dedmon and two others approached Anderson in the parking lot and surrounded him. It says Rice and Dedmon then attacked him "with the cooperation and encouragement" of the others. The three people who stayed in the vehicles during the attack acted as lookouts, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also said one of the teens screamed "white power" during the assault.
The hotel's security camera captured video of Anderson being run over. The surveillance video, obtained by The Associated Press and other media, shows a white Jeep Cherokee in which Rice was allegedly a passenger leaving a hotel parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Less than 20 seconds later, a Ford truck backs up and then lunges forward. Anderson's shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb.
Dedmon's attorney has said it was an accident. Rice's lawyer said Rice was actually trying to help Anderson, who had locked his keys in his car, before Dedmon arrived.
Rice's lawyer, Samuel Martin, has also suggested during court hearings that the teens were on a beer run that morning, not looking for anyone to harass or assault.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said Tuesday that a grand jury could hear evidence against all the teens. The FBI is investigating the case, too.
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