Saturday, June 7, 2014

June 7, 1998: James Byrd, Jr.

My post today is a little different.  There were only three men involved in the racially motivated killing.  It was a lynching in a sense that James Byrd, Jr. was put to death by three people for s supposed offense without law.  The most any newspapers will go is to call it a lynch-like murder.  I decided to include this one because it is important to see that some people still have the mentality that putting someone to death because you don't like something they said, do or are is acceptable.  Luckily, they are in a minority.

This is from The Associated Press, published in The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) on June 10, 1998.

Three white men charged in dragging death of black man

JASPER--Three white men with suspected ties to the Ku Klux Klan chained a black hitchhiker to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death, authorities said Tuesday.

James Byrd Jr.'s head, neck and right arm were found about a mile from his mangled torso.  A wrench with the name of one of the suspects on it was found near the body.  Byrd had been dragged about two miles.

"All evidence shows it will be racially motivated," Sheriff Billy Rowles said.

Lawrence Russell Brewer, 31, Shawn Allen Berry and John William King, both 23, were charged with murder and jailed without bail.  

Byrd, 49, had been walking home from a niece's bridal shower Saturday night and apparently accepted a ride from the defendants.  He was last seen riding in the back of the truck, police said.

When he was found, he was so badly disfigured that investigators had to use fingerprints to identify him.  

King and Brewer were covered with tattoos indicating white supremacist beliefs, and all three had spent time in  prison, where they apparently had ties to the KKK and Aryan Nation, the sheriff said.

The sheriff said it appeared Byrd knew one of the defendants, but he rejected the notion that racist groups have members in the area.

"We have no Aryan Nation or KKK in Jasper County," he said, drawing hoots from blacks at a news conference.  

Charles Lee, grand dragon of one East Texas KKK factions, refused to say if the hate group has any members in Jasper County.  

Rowles said it appeared the three men had been drinking.

Jasper in a timber town of 7,800 people about 100 miles northeast of Houston.  It is 55 miles north of Vidor where a Klan faction protested a 1993 federal order to integrate an all-white public housing complex.

Authorities gave this account of the slayings:  

Berry told police that he and his companions were riding around in his truck when they saw Byrd walking down a dirt road and offered him a ride.  King objected because of Byrd's race, but they picked him up anyway,   and all four went to a convenience store.  King then got behind the wheel and drove to an isolated area.  There, the defendants got out and Brewer and King starting [sic] beating the victim.  Byrd was chained to the truck and dragged.  

Byrd's body was discovered Sunday morning about 10 miles from his apartment.  District Attorney Guy James Gray would not say how Byrd was chained to the truck.  

Police say they have a witness who saw Byrd in Berry's truck.  Authorities also said they found a wrench engraved with Berry's name near the body that resembles similar tools from Berry's truck.

The three men were initially picked up for possession of stolen property, authorities said.  Officers investigating a break-in at a restaurant allegedly caught them with a large quantity of frozen meat.  

FBI agents met with the sheriff on Tuesday, and several Civil Rights charged may be filed, authorities said.  

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume urged the Justice Department to bring federal charges.  

"These coward should never walk the street again as free men," Mfume said

Byrd, a former vaccuum salesman and father of three, didn't have a car and lived on disability checks because of an arm injury, said his sister, Clara Taylor.

"He was very outgoing and friendly towards everyone," Taylor said.  "Everyone around here knew him.  There was no ingrained hatred or anything like that."

She described her brother as a music lover who sang and played the piano and trumpet.  "He had a beautiful singing voice," she said.

When Brewer's mother, Helen Brewer of Sulphur Springs, heard what her son was accused of, she said:  "That is so hard to believe.  I couldn't do a dog that way.  That just shows you what alcohol can do." 

1 comment:

  1. Alcohol! What the fuck! Is his mother delusional?