On Sunday, August 24, 2014, at around 2 a.m. in West Point, Miss., Weems was severely beaten by 20 blacks who reportedly were seeking vengeance for Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old, 6′ 4″, 300-lb. strong-arm convenience-store robber whom white police officer Darren Wilson had shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9.
The Weems incident began at about 1 a.m. when Weems and a friend, David Knighten, an Air Force veteran who had fought in the war in Afghanistan, entered a Waffle House in West Point, despite being warned against entering. The warning came from a man in the parking lot, who said white people should not enter because patrons inside Waffle House were angry about the shooting death of Michael Brown.
According to Knighten, Weems began arguing with customers not long after the two friends had entered the Waffle House. It’s not clear what was said or what was in dispute. After the police eventually showed up, Weems and Knighten left.
On the way home, the pair decided to stop at Huddle House, a similar type of eatery as Waffle House.
But a group of about 20 men had followed Weems and Knighten to the mostly empty Huddle House parking lot. A security guard told everyone to leave. But the men blocked Weems and Knighten. Knighten said he attempted to calm the hostilities, to no avail.
The 20 or so people who had pursued Weems attacked him, knocked him to the ground and brutally kicked him. Knighten also suffered several injuries as he tried but failed to help his friend. He wrote on Facebook: “All my injuries were minor fractures and lacerations. I just wish I could have reached him [Ralph Weems] sooner. Please keep your thoughts and prayers on Ralph.”
Witnesses described the assailants as black but otherwise could not identify them. Knighten added: “I do remember racial slurs being yelled from the crowd.”
Police arrived on the scene only after the crowd had dispersed.
On Monday, police arrested 22-year-old Courtez McMillian in connection with the conflict. Police say other arrests are pending based on witness accounts and video footage captured in the Huddle House parking lot.
Weems is listed in fair condition at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. His brother-in-law, Bradley Barnes, Weems is in a post-brain surgery coma induced by doctors. “They’re going to try and wake him up tomorrow and see what damage was done.”
In a police press release Sunday, local police chief Tim Brinkley said, “This does not appear to be a hate crime. We are investigating this as an aggravated assault. 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.”
Brinkley said it was down to the District Attorney’s office and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to determine if the incident was a hate crime. “It’s up to the Grand Jury to make this determination. All we do is process the evidence and turn the case over to the District Attorney who in turn presents it to the Grand Jury. It’s within their discretion to add the hate crime enhancement.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 530-7151 or the West Point Police Department at (662) 494-1244.
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Dr. Eowyn’s article first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.