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Aug112011

Video of White Teens Killing Black Man Sparks Reports of More Assaults

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The white Mississippi teens caught on surveillance video beating a black man, then killing him by running him over with a pickup truck may be responsible for other attacks on homeless black men in the area, the head of the state's NAACP told ABC News.

James Anderson, an auto worker, was killed June 26 in Jackson, Miss. His murder received renewed attention when the grisly surveillance video surfaced this week.

The video allegedly shows Deryl Dedmon, 18, and several of his friends beating Anderson, and then driving over his body. Dedmon, who is accused of driving the pickup truck that lurched over Anderson's body in the video, is in jail on $800,000 bond awaiting a grand jury investigation into Anderson's homicide.

Dedmon's friend, John Rice, who was at the scene during the beating, had originally been charged with murder. But during a preliminary hearing detectives testified Rice, who is also 18, left the parking lot before Anderson got run over.

Rice's charge was lowered to simple assault and will be sent to the grand jury along with Dedmon's. In the meantime, Rice was released on $5,000 bail.

The teens charged have not yet entered a plea. Neither Dedmon nor Rice's lawyer returned a call from ABC News.

Prosecutors are trying to determine if the other teens involved in the incident should also be charged.

The attack on Anderson may have been the latest assault on blacks in the area, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, told ABC News. He said evidence indicates the white teenagers deliberately "set out to go and mess with African Americans."

Johnson said that sources who wished to remain anonymous said the teens "had, as a practice, targeted African Americans in the city of Jackson who were homeless." He's now working to verify the legitimacy of those claims.

Jackson police spokeswoman Colendula Green said detectives had received a call from "one person" saying that "white people" were beating up on homeless African Americans. They looked into it, she said, and couldn't substantiate the claims.

For now, she said, "it's hearsay," and the alleged incident reported to police happened "three or four years ago."

Some of the racial tension in the area stems from the racial disparity between Brandon, Miss., which is 90 percent white, and the town of Jackson in Hinds County, which is 70 percent African-American, according to Johnson.

Brandon, located in Rankin County, is often referred to as "the white flight county from Jackson," said Johnson.

There has been a "huge increase over last 20 years of working class or poor whites in Rankin County," he added. "With that created a lot of tensions because when you have individuals who are not neighbors, don't know each other, and carry the baggage of racism, you develop a culture of racial hatred."

Johnson says they've gotten a "slew of calls" asking if they will organize a demonstration. But they are being cautious.

"We decided to allow the investigation to mature and at that time respond based on the information that is released," Johnson said.

"It's really easy for people to come and sensationalize it, or for individuals to demagogue the issue. We're trying to make sure at the end of the day that justice is brought," Johnson said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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