FBI Investigating Possible Hate Crime - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/7/03

FBI Investigating Possible Hate Crime

An East Texas man is beaten and left for dead, and police believe his race may be a factor. The FBI has been called in to help determine if a 42-year-old mentally handicapped man was targeted because he is black.

  The incident happened in the early morning hours of September 28th in Linden, Texas. Linden is located in Cass County, southwest of Atlanta. Billy Ray Johnson's family wants some answers. Why was a mentally handicapped black man taken to an all-white party? why was he beaten up and left for dead? and why, more than a week later, has no one been arrested?

"He's the kind of guy that wouldn't bother anybody." said Billy Ray's sister-in-law Tina Thomas. "And, in this small town, justice needs to be done."

"If I hit somebody and put any kind of bodily wounds; they're gonna' give me attempted murder." added Billy Ray's cousin Corry Maxie. "Down here, they're going to hit me with the hardest thing they can find."

Linden police chief Alton McWaters says it's just a matter of time.

"We want to make sure we file charges on everybody who was involved in it."

Police say Billy Ray was brought to a party here in a field. That's when details get a little sketchy. Sometime during the party, Billy Ray was beaten up.

"They said they was using some slang words and mocking him and making fun of him and that type of thing." said McWaters. "I don't know what occurred at the party to make them hit him. That's what we're still investigating. He had a busted lip, he also had a cut over his left eye. And apparently, from the blow, or from when he hit the ground or fell, he has a blood vessel that is leaking into his brain."

His unconscious body was then taken to a deserted county road and dumped. Cass County jailer Cory Hicks claims to have found him on the road the next morning. But authorities now believe, while not responsible for the assault, the county jailer was at the party that night and lied to investigators about what happened. He has since been fired. While Chief McWaters has called in the FBI to help, Billy Ray's family has called in the NAACP to do the same.

"I hope this sends a message that we're not going to stand for it." said Billy Ray's cousin Lue Arthur Wilson. "We're not going to be treated like dogs and we're not their monkeys. We don't dance for no one."

Johnson remains in the Linden Municipal hospital, and his condition is improving. His family says he regained consciousness a couple of days ago, but still doesn't remember what happened. The FBI is expected to wrap up their investigation today, then decide if federal hate crime charges will be filed.

Kevin Berns Reporting

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