Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Mississippi Teens in Killing of Black Man

The Southern Poverty Law Center, in cooperation with Mississippi attorney Winston J. Thompson III, filed a wrongful death lawsuit today on behalf of the family of a black man who was viciously beaten in a motel parking lot and then fatally run over.

The civil lawsuit accuses seven white teenagers of deliberately setting out in the early morning hours of June 26 to go to Jackson to “go f--k with some n----rs.” James C. Anderson was in a motel parking lot in Jackson when he was attacked. During the attack, one of his attackers shouted, “White power!,” according to the lawsuit.

After the beating, the lawsuit alleges, one of the teens drove an Ford F-250 pickup truck over a street curb, striking and killing Anderson. The alleged driver of the truck, Deryl Dedmon Jr., reportedly told the other teens that he “ran that n----r over.” None of the teens named in the lawsuit attempted to stop the attack, call police or seek medical help for Anderson, the suit claims.

Filed in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Miss., the suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Anderson’s family.

Video of the attack, including footage of Anderson being hit by the truck, was captured by a motel security camera and broadcast by CNN earlier this year.

James Anderson
James C. Anderson was killed in Jackson, Miss., on June 26, 2011.
“The whole world saw the brutal attack that James Anderson suffered at the hands of people who simply wanted to hurt someone of a different race,” said Thompson of the Cochran Firm’s Jackson office. “We cannot ignore such cold-hearted cruelty.”

Morris Dees, chief trial counsel for the SPLC, added: “James Anderson lost his life for no other reason than the color of his skin. Those responsible must be held accountable for their callous and deadly actions. We are filing this lawsuit today to ensure his family gets a measure of justice.”

The lawsuit describes how, during the evening of June 25 and the next morning, the teens were drinking at one or more gatherings in Rankin County, Miss., before setting out in two vehicles and finding Anderson in the Metro Inn parking lot.

“Anyone who knew James could see that he was a caring man with a beautiful smile,” said Barbara Anderson Young, his eldest sister. “He was such a compassionate person. We must take an honest look at the racial climate that motivated some young people to hurt such a wonderful person.”

Named as defendants are Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, Sarah Graves, Shelbie Richards, William Kirk Montgomery, John Blaylock and Dylan Butler. The allegations in the suit include battery, negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death.