A Mississippi man was badly beaten in a restaurant parking lot by a group of men after possibly arguing over a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Ralp Weems IV, of West Point, was placed in a medically induced coma following brain surgery, a relative told the Associated Press.
The 32-year-old former Marine who served in Iraq had gone early Saturday with a friend to Waffle House, where a man told them people inside were angry over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and politely suggested the restaurant was not safe for white people to enter.
But Weems and his friend, David Knighten, went inside anyway and began arguing with other men there.
Police were called about 1 a.m. to Waffle House, and Knighten said he told officers he had a concealed carry permit and showed them his .45-caliber handgun.
Weems and Knighten, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan, then left Waffle House and went to a nearby Huddle House restaurant, where they found a nearly vacant parking lot.
They had apparently been followed by about seven people, police said, and the argument resumed.
Some reports indicated as many as 20 people confronted Weems and his friend, but police said the group was less than half that large.
Knighten said he came out of the restroom to find Weems surrounded, and he attempted to defuse the situation until a security guard ordered them to leave.
Some group members blocked Knighten from leaving with Weems, and Knighten said they knocked Weems down and began kicking him.
Others attacked Knighten, and he said he heard racial slurs yelled from the crowd, but police said that was not enough to support a hate crime charge.
“A hate crime is when somebody is victimized solely because of a racial bias, a religious or sexual bias, on the basis of just that,” said Chief Tom Brinkley, of West Point police. “In the absence of that it’s just a verbal altercation that turned violent. Just because racial remarks were used, and we’re still investigating whether or not some racial remarks were used in this incident, but just because racial remarks were used does not make it a hate crime. It could have just been a fight.”
Knighten said he suffered broken bones in his face, a cut over his left eye, and a blood clot in his right eye. Doctors still aren't sure how badly Weems was injured.
Police were called to Huddle House at 2 a.m., but they still aren’t certain whether the men involved in the beating had been at Waffle House.
“The victim and the guy who was with the victim were there when our officers arrived, but all the perpetrators had left the scene, and so one of the things we’re looking at is why it took so long for somebody to call the police,” Brinkley told World Net Daily.
Police are reviewing surveillance video and other evidence to identify suspects in the attack.
“Somebody is perpetrating that someone made a comment that this (beating) was in retaliation for Ferguson and we’re just not seeing it at this point in our investigation,” Brinkley said. “They’re trying to make this a mini-Ferguson. If it gets to that point, then we’ll deal with it, but at this point we don’t know where that’s coming from. We’ve got a good idea where it’s coming from, but none of the people we’ve interviewed have told us that.”
[Image: A police siren via Shutterstock]