Mississippi

FBI investigates possible hate crime after Facebook video posted of beating in Mississippi

Two men accused of a violent beating captured on video admitted to their actions in court Wednesday, the Wayne County sheriff said, with one blaming it on drinking.

Landon McCaa, 32, and fellow partygoer Tomas Sion Brown, 28, both of Waynesboro, were arrested Monday and charged with aggravated assault. During an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon, both men were asked why they assaulted the victim.

According to Sheriff Jody Ashley, McCaa “said he was sorry he did it and he had been drinking.”

Brown, Ashley said, blamed the beating on “a feud.”

“He said the exact words of a feud,” Ashley said.

Both waived the right to a public defender. McCaa and Brown each received a bond of $500,000 and are currently in the Wayne County Jail.

The 28-year-old victim is not being named by law enforcement out of respect for the family, Ashley said. He is not believed to have been a friend of McCaa’s.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the person who captured the incident on video had not been identified. Until investigators find them, Ashley said, “no stone will not be uncovered.”

“Come in, turn yourself in,” he said. “We’re going to keep knocking on doors until we find you.”

Video called horrendous, chilling

Saturday morning, in the early hours, McCaa and his friends were drinking at a local bar in Wayne County, said Ashley. McCaa and his friends had visited multiple bars that night, Ashley said, and when their latest haunt closed at 2 a.m., McCaa invited the “whole bar” back to his home.

By 4 a.m., one of those bar patrons would be lying on the concrete in McCaa’s carport, with a man who appears to be McCaa on top of him, landing punch after punch. A portion of the beating was captured on video. Then, it was shared to Facebook.

No one is seen helping the victim. He was hospitalized immediately after and underwent surgery Tuesday, Ashley said.

“It’s graphic, it’s horrendous, it’s chilling,” Ashely said of the video. “When I first saw it, it’s just something I didn’t think I would ever see... Right now, I’m looking for the one that filmed this... you look at the whole party there... no one in this video you see trying to help this guy.”

Since the incident, Ashely said Wednesday, investigators have talked with multiple witnesses who were at McCaa’s house that night, including one “outraged” person who was not present during the filming but helped the victim after the fact.

“The more people we get coming in, the more we can get to what took place and how this took place,” the sheriff said.

Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Kassie Coleman said Wednesday that once the investigation is complete, the file will be turned over to the district attorney’s office to be reviewed and presented to the grand jury.

Possible hate crime?

Ashley previously said the charges could be upgraded to a hate crime and asked the FBI to assist in the investigation. He did not elaborate on why the charges could be a possible hate crime.

Under Mississippi law, penalties may be subject to enhancement if the felony or misdemeanor was committed because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender. Federal law includes the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or disabilities.

Interest in the case has come from around the country, Ashley said, with many demanding those responsible be brought to justice.

“They’re outraged, we understand that,” he said. “Give the law a chance to do our jobs ... what takes place, doing this the right way is the proper channel for bringing true justice into this case, that’s what I’m asking for the general public to understand.”

Ashley also asked that people pray for the victim’s family.

“They’re going through a lot,” he said. “I just hope for healing for them and the whole community.”

Crime Stoppers offers reward

Crime Stoppers has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of others responsible, Ashley said.

If you have any information relating to the incident, you are asked to call the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department at (601) 735-3801 or submit a tip on their website, http://www.waynecoso.org/tip.htm. You can contact Crime Stoppers at 601-855-8477.

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