A vigil is set tonight in the Louisiana town of Winnsboro where a 20-year-old black, female college student was set afire Sunday night in a park and her car smeared with racial slurs and the letters KKK.
The mother of Sharmeka Moffitt said the young woman is expected to undergo surgery today at a LSU Hospital in Shreveport, after being burned on over 60 percent of her body.
Initial reports in social media on Monday said that Sharmeka was wearing an Obama T-shirt at the time of the attack, but her mother told KSLA news that she was not wearing an Obama shirt. She also corrected other rumors.
“She was not raped. She was not beaten. She was burned,” said Edna Moffitt.
Sharmeka was walking in Civitan Park when she was attacked by three men wearing hoods or hoodies. She told authorities that she could not see their faces.
Authorities have not classified the incident as a hate crime, but state police were on the scene investigating within hours, state Sen. Rick Gallot, told BlackAmericaweb.com. “I understand the FBI is also investigating,” Gallot said.
“Anytime there is a crime of this magnitude, so senseless and brutal, you have to wonder what would motivate someone to inflict that type of pain on another individual,” Gallot said.
Tony Brown, host of a morning talk show carried on five Louisiana radio stations, said he broke the story on "Eyes Open Tony Brown" then traveled to Winnsboro to talk with residents and officials.
“This has developed an environment of fear in that community,” Brown told BlackAmericaweb.com. “We’ve seen an increase of racially motivated incidents in Louisiana and other parts of the country since the election of President Obama.
Winnsboro, is in Franklin Parish, about 30 to 45 northeast of Jena in LaSalle Parish. It was in that town in 2005 where national attention was focused after six young black men were jailed following a fight with a white schoolmate in a town where there had been racial division.
Winnsboro has a population less than 5,000 according the U.S. Census. A majority of residents in that town are black, but the largest percentage of residents in the parish is white, Brown said.
Both the mayor and police chief in Winnsboro are black. Attempts by BlackAmericaweb.com to reach Chief Lester Thomas and Mayor Jackie Johnson were unsuccessful.
Gallot and Brown applauded law enforcement for moving quickly to bring in additional resources for the investigation.
“This happened around 8 p.m. and by 1 a.m., state police were in there,” Brown said.
Gallot said he had confidence that the investigators will get questions answered regarding the incident.
“There have been a lot of rumors and speculation out there,” Gallot said. “I caution everyone not to rush to judgment, but to allow the professional investigators to handle this.”