JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi NAACP on Tuesday called on state and federal authorities to investigate whether the hit-and-run killing of a black man was racially motivated.
A white 17-year-old male has been charged with murder in the July 22 death of Johnny Lee Butts, authorities said. The 61-year-old was struck by a vehicle and killed while he was taking an early-morning walk on a rural road near his home in north Mississippi's Panola County.
District Attorney John Champion told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the case is being presented to a grand jury Wednesday in one of Panola County's two judicial districts. He said his office is investigating whether there was a racial motivation in the incident that left Butts dead at the scene.
Conviction on a murder charge can carry a sentence of life in prison. A person convicted under Mississippi's hate-crimes law could receive enhanced penalties.
Champion also said FBI agents met with state investigators Monday. The district attorney said he could not comment on the evidence of the case.
The teenager was arrested July 22 and remains in the Panola County Jail under a $300,000 bond. At least one passenger was in the teen's car, investigators said.
Champion said the 17-year-old and a younger teenager who was in the car also are charged with burglary of a church. A break-in occurred at a church several miles from where Butts was killed.
Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said Tuesday that the killing of Butts is reminiscent of the June 2011 killing of a black man, James Craig Anderson, who was run down in Jackson by a pickup truck driven by a white teenager from nearby Brandon.
"At this point, we are just trying to make sure there is a full investigation of the incident," Johnson said of the Panola County killing.
The killing of Anderson was captured on a hotel's surveillance cameras. Wilbur Colom of Columbus, Miss., an attorney representing Butts' family, said he doesn't know of any video of the hit-and-run of Butts, which occurred in an isolated area on Mississippi Highway 310, between Batesville and Senatobia.
Despite the circumstances of their family member's death, Butts' relatives are praying for the people who are charged or are under investigation, Colom said.
"They are so confident in their religion that they believe Mr. Butts is in a better place, that God has him," Colom told the AP. "They expressed no anger and no hatred toward anyone. All they want is a complete investigation and the appropriate punishment for what was done."
Colom said "we cannot read the minds of those kids" to know whether the hit-and-run was racially motivated, but the family wants investigators to question the people who were in the car to find out if race was discussed.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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