On June 26, 2011, 47-year-old James Craig Anderson was on his way to celebrate his birthday with his partner when he was attacked and murdered by ten white teenagers in a Jackson, Mississippi, parking lot.
Four white men–Deryl Dedmon, 23, John Rice, 23, Dylan Butler, 24 and William Montgomery, 26–were convicted of federal hate crimes and conspiracy charges for killing Anderson, a gay black man, and are serving between 7 and 50 years in prison. Dedmon was also found guilty in a state court of capital murder and hate crimes, and is serving two life sentences. On Monday, a court ordered the four to pay Anderson's estate $840,000 in restitution as part of a civil rights case pursued by the Department of Justice.
“When these defendants committed this brutal hate crime they not only took a man’s life, they also hurt a family,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. Anderson left behind his partner of 18 years, James Bradfield, and their son De’Mariouz, who was 4 years old at the time.
The group, teenagers at the time, first attacked Anderson, punching him repeatedly, before running him over with a truck and driving off. They were heard by witnesses to shout "white power" and "fucking n***er," while attacking Anderson and as they drove away. During the federal hate crime investigation that was opened, it became apparent that the white teenagers had gone to Jackson with the intention of attacking black people on several occasions. How many other victims they may have attacked is unknown, but according to the F.B.I. there were at least a half dozen other times they terrorized black people in Jackson:
The FBI’s Jackson Field Office opened an investigation, and it wasn’t long before we were able to piece together a conspiracy among at least 10 individuals who—on a half-dozen or so different occasions—made and carried out plans to target, harass, and hurt African-Americans in Jackson, specifically those they believed were homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they thought that such individuals would be less likely to report the assault.
The attack stirred up memories of the Jim Crow era, when lynchings of black people in Mississippi were a regular terror. Between 1877 and 1950, there were at least 3,959 lynchings in southern states, according to a report released last year by the Equal Justice Initiative.
“People were shocked,” Winston Thompson III, Anderson’s family's lawyer told BuzzFeed. “We’ve always had racial issues in Mississippi, but prior to this happening, I never would have thought it would have been that systematic, that pervasive, that virulent: This is what they did for fun.”