It was a vicious hate crime that shocked the country – a black man in Jackson, Mississippi, attacked by a group of white teens and killed when he was deliberately run down by a pickup truck.
Captured by a motel security camera and broadcast on CNN, the murder of 47-year-old James C. Anderson in June 2011 prompted an SPLC lawsuit against the seven teens involved. That case ended with a confidential settlement.
This week, the criminal case came to an end when two men – John L. Blalack, 20, and Robert H. Rice, 24 – became the last of 10 defendants to plead guilty in connection with Anderson’s murder and other, earlier hate crimes against African Americans in Jackson. Convicted under the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, they each face up to 10 years in prison.
“This case was a sickening reminder of the consequences of racism and hate,” said SPLC Founder Morris Dees. “James Anderson was brutally murdered for no other reason than the color of his skin. And the lives of these young people have been ruined. As a nation, we must work even harder to confront the legacy of white supremacism that continues to haunt us.”
In 2012, Deryl Paul Dedmon, 22, the driver of the truck that ran over Anderson and the alleged ringleader of the group, pleaded guilty to murder and hate crime charges. He was sentenced to life in prison after Anderson’s family urged the prosecutor to not seek the death penalty.
In court yesterday, according to The Clarion-Ledger, Blalack admitted that he and the others had cruised the streets of Jackson, which they called “Jafrica,” on at least 10 occasions to harass and attack African Americans. On one trip, they beat a man near a golf course until he begged for his life.
On the night of June 25, 2011, seven of them left a party in nearby Puckett, armed with beer bottles to throw. Sometime after midnight, they found Anderson, an autoworker and the lead tenor in his church choir, in a motel parking lot. One of the teens knocked him to the ground as the assault began. One reportedly shouted “white power” during the attack.
Blalack recounted how he left the scene with three others and later received a phone call from Dedmon saying, “I just runned that n—-r over.” He said he returned to see people huddled around Anderson’s body.
Anderson, who worked at a nearby Nissan plant, was described by U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis as a “wonderful human being” and loving family man – “a father, a son who called his mother every morning, a brother and a partner.”
Others who pleaded guilty earlier were John Aaron Rice, 21; Dylan Wade Butler, 23; Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 22; and Joseph Paul Dominick, 23, all from Brandon; William Kirk Montgomery, 25, from Puckett; Shelbie Brooke Richards, 21, from Pearl; and Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, from Crystal Springs.
This case will be featured on “Hate in America,” a documentary premiering at 8 PM (Eastern), February 23, on Discovery ID. The SPLC worked closely with the producers to examine the violence inspired by hate, fear, and intolerance. SPLC Founder Morris Dees will be appearing in the piece, as will several other SPLC experts.